Saturday, April 08, 2006

Fatal Light Awareness Program

Today I attended an introductory session at FLAP (Fatal Light Awareness Program). With a tiny staff (2 employees) and dozens of volunteers, FLAP has been accomplishing great things on behalf of wild birds here in Toronto.

Part of FLAP's work is raising awareness about the dangers posed by modern architecture and the common practice of leaving buildings lit up at night. Migrating birds are confused by Toronto's numerous skyscrapers, especially those covered in mirror glass; and at night time, they are attracted to lights. Millions of birds die pointlessly because people don't turn off the lights! Getting rid of mirrored glass buildings is a more expensive proposition, but FLAP is working to educate architects about how they can make future buildings safer for birds.

The other big task FLAP takes on, and here is where the dozens of volunteers come in, is patrolling the most hazardous areas, gathering data on birds who die, and taking the survivors to wildlife rehabilitators. This is the area I will be getting involved in. Mid-March to Mid-June is an especially busy time for bird rescue, as the spring migration will be passing through Toronto. (It will be busy again in the fall.)

Although I have always admired birds, have spent some time bird-watching, and lived with two budgies as a child, I learned a lot about bird anatomy and behaviour from today's workshop. Did you know that birds' repiratory systems are completely different from ours? As well as lungs, they have air sacs. Oxygen is absorbed through the lungs on the exhale. I also learned that the birds whom I occasionally recovered after crashing, who seemed to have broken necks, in fact did not. Birds' necks are naturally much more flexible than ours, so what seems like unnatural floppiness and serious injury to us is really within the normal range of motion for birds. (The usual cause of death for birds who crash is head trauma.)

FLAP is a great organization. If you live in Toronto, I encourage you to get involved. If you live elsewhere, visit FLAP's website and maybe you'll be inspired to start a similar programme in your city!

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