Windows are particularly dangerous to birds. The reflectivity of a window tricks them into thinking that they are flying through open space when they’re actually flying to their death. The glass industry has sought to mitigate bird deaths by developing various glass treatments, such as fritted, etched and UV-coated glass.

However, city ordinances and cost fears have failed to keep up with the glass industry’s push for counteracting collisions. Chicago, for instance, has been hesitant to implement a 2020 ordinance that would have placed more emphasis on bird protection in newer buildings; building owners are worried about the costs, which caused the city to soften the ordinance.

Glass and birds have a long, fraught history. Studies indicate that windows kill nearly a billion birds annually in the U.S. and Canada.

In Madison, Wis., several membership-based trade associations within the city filed a lawsuit to block a bird-safe glass ordinance. The associations argued that the ordinance would violate state law and add costs for “developers, building owners and tenants. A judge in August 2022 upheld the law.

The Canadian government aims to mitigate bird deaths through a “Bird-Friendly” certification standard developed by Nature Canada.

As part of that program, the Canadian government announced in December 2022 at the 15th annual Conference of the Parties event that 14 new cities have been certified as a “Bird Friendly City.” The certification encourages municipalities to protect birds from human-caused threats, including windows.

“Getting certified as a ‘Bird Friendly City’ is something these municipalities can really crow about,” says Steven Guilbeault, Canada’s minister of environment and climate change. “It’s a point of pride and a self-imposed challenge to continue doing better in protecting the fate of bird populations that enrich our urban environments while helping to balance our ecosystems. I salute Nature Canada’s initiative and all the work of partners who ensure that certification is offered to cities making significant efforts to protect our birds. We all benefit when we raise awareness about the importance of bird life and its habitats.”

The 14 newly certified cities are:

  • Barrie, Ontario
  • Burlington, Ontario
  • Edmonton, Alberta
  • Guelph, Ontario
  • Halifax, Nova Scotia
  • Halton Hills, Ontario
  • Hamilton, Ontario
  • Lions Bay, British Columbia
  • Peterborough, Ontario
  • Regina, Saskatchewan
  • Saanich, British Columbia
  • Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec
  • Strathcona County, Alberta
  • Windsor, Ontario

The 14 cities join Vancouver, Toronto, London and Calgary, which were certified in the spring of 2021.

Cities that are certified have met or exceeded a minimum standard with regard to reducing threats to birds in their municipality, states Nature Canada. The program encourages communities to reduce the number of human-caused threats, such as bird collisions in windows, by using window treatments in buildings with large windows. As of January, only two of the 14 cities recently named as a “Bird Friendly City” have adopted a bird-window collision option (Guelph and Burlington), per Nature Canada.

Research indicates that there are three billion fewer birds in North America today than 50 years ago, so protecting them is essential, says Graham Saul, Nature Canada’s executive director. In a country that hosts around 393 species of migratory birds, protecting them from human-related dangers is vital to their existence and the well-being of forests and farms, states Environment and Climate Change Canada.

“The ‘Bird Friendly City’ certification is more than just a piece of paper,” says Saul. “It’s a commitment to building a nature-positive world together, and we are honored to work with the municipalities to achieve that vision.”

The program was made possible by a $655,000 investment from Environment and Climate Change Canada.