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Flock to Hamilton for the Birds

Flock to Hamilton for the Birds

If Hamilton is a city of waterfalls, surely it can be a city of birds.

Between the escarpment, lake, harbour, grasslands and forests, we have a huge welcome mat for birds, but it could be better.

Hamilton could be a Bird Friendly City.

Red-bellied woodpecker Photo: Barry Coombs

Birder Barry Coombs presented just such an idea to a recent meeting of the City of Hamilton planning committee.

“Hamilton is known to Ontario birders as an incredibly good birdwatching habitat,” Coombs says.

 The Bird Friendly City initiative is the work of Nature Canada. They have guidelines, and they certify cities that meet them. The program is Canada wide, and it doesn’t take much research to see that Ottawa, Windsor, London, Toronto are already certified, or working toward achieving bird friendly status.

 To do so requires the involvement of local government. The things that make a city bird friendly are rooted in the way a city is built. Loss of habitat, improving habitat, tree cover, building guidelines that mitigate bird strikes on tall buildings, these issues touch on the municipal realm of planning, building design, environmental laws and urban boundaries.

Coombs is on the committee to make Hamilton a Bird Friendly City. When he presented the concept to the planning committee, it met with some enthusiasm and some indifference.

  Yet it’s hardly a radical, or expensive proposition. In fact buildings designed to reduce bird strikes save money. Toronto and Markham both created guidelines that address the issues of birds hitting windows. Reducing window reflection, turning off lights at night, these are some of the suggestions of FLAP ( the Fatal Light Awareness Program.

Bird strikes against windows and buildings are a major threat to birds
Kathy Renwald photo

Birds add a sense of wonder

  If a city is friendly to birds, it’s friendly to people. Right now as spring migration builds, one can see the hawks, vultures, eagles, and cranes flying overhead. Trumpeter swans are gathering on the harbour, sparrows, and warblers will arrive. The experience of seeing birds and hearing birds is magical, and uplifting to the human spirit.

  There is a raft of documentation about how to make a city bird friendly. As Coombs notes, the concept would require no massive studies or hiring of consultants to implement. Coombs is urging people to write to their councillor if they support the idea of building birds into the planning of a better city. Now is a logical time to consider the idea Coombs says, since the city is updating site planning guidelines.

  It’s interesting how the waterfall frenzy still continues to draw people to a city that was once written off as polluted and dirty. But waterfalls are just a piece of what people value about our natural lands. It’s the whole experience, the plants, the peace, and yes the birds.

  “It could give us an economic advantage,” Coombs says. “It could be part of a new green deal as they say, a city like Hamilton if it cares about and protects birds, trees, clean water, bees its going to attract business that value those attributes.”

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