EZ Wawi family, winners of the PIBO Bird-Safe Window Contest

Bird Friendly Windsor

In 2019, Nature Canada signed an agreement with Environment and Climate Change Canada to certify 30 Canadian centres as “Bird Friendly Cities” by May 14, 2022— this year’s World Migratory Bird Day.

With almost 82 percent of Canada’s population living in urban centres—compared to less than 20 percent a century ago—it’s clearly time to address the threats a city poses to birds—loss of habitat and food sources, the perils of domestic cats, reflective windows in daytime, and office buildings that leave their lights on all night. (See How YOU Can Help Birds)

To be certified as a Bird Friendly City, a community has to meet certain criteria and show they are honestly and vigorously working to improve the lives of wild birds there. Nature Canada’s certification process provides a clear standard that tells a city what exactly it needs to do to make its urban environment safe for birds.

Cardinal by Charlie Kearns, age 10, in the PIBO art contest

Our Cardinal Family by Grayson Candido, age 6, PIBO children’s art contest

According to Nature Canada, the most important elements of a Bird Friendly City are:

  • Reducing human-related threats to birds
  • Habitat protection, restoration, and climate resiliency
  • Community outreach/education

There are three levels of Bird Friendly City status. “Entry status,” the minimum standard, means a city has achieved 50 percent of the possible points within each category. “Intermediate status” is attained when a city reaches 65 to 80 percent of possible points, and “High status” is above 80 percent. All the cities and towns that meet the standards have some common elements that show both public and political will, such as hosting a World Migratory Bird Day event, bringing together a Bird Team, and promoting Bird Friendly City status on the municipal website.  

Achieving certification announces to the world that a city is acting progressively to help birds and reverse the perilous decline in bird populations. In the past three years, Nature Canada has certified five communities as a Bird Friendly City—Vancouver, BC (Intermediate), Calgary, Alberta (Entry), Regina, Saskatchewan (Entry), London, Ontario (High), and Toronto, Ontario (High).

PIBO, led by Suzanne Friemann, has been working hard with a small committee of staff and volunteers to put Windsor, Ontario, on the Bird Friendly City map. We have taken bird education into public libraries and indigenous and special-needs schools through Backpacks for Birders and sponsored a bird art contest  and a bird photography contest. Although many of the criteria for earning the Bird Friendly City designation relate to a city’s management of public land, we took the opportunity to survey Windsor landscapers about their bird-friendly practices. Over the past year alone, PIBO has hosted ten events, including two owling nights at the Ojibway Nature, a bird-safe window contest, a webinar with local native plant woman, Laura Foy, and another on birds and gardens, and on August 31, 2021, we hosted an online Bird Friendly Cities Panel discussion with Jennifer Nantais, PIBO’s 2021 Urban Bird Coordinator; Brendon Samuels, from London’s Bird Team; Sara Jordan-McLachlan from Calgary’s Bird Team; Andres Jimenez Monge from Birds Canada; and moderator, Ian Davidson of BirdLife International.

Shades of Blue - Jessica Middleton

Margaret Atwood and Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens

Clearly, PIBO has been a driving force in the campaign to get Windsor accredited as a Bird Friendly City. As well as planning and hosting events, we promote bird awareness and habitat protection through five different bird checklists for Windsor and Essex County, developed in 2021, and awareness programs such as a Survey for Landscapers on Bird-Friendly Gardening. We produced a series of videos on window bird collisions, how to assess the windows of your house  and how to prevent collisions.  We initiated the Birds to BIPOC program in 2022, and will host another World Migratory Bird Day in May.

In a 53-page Bird Friendly City application for Windsor certification, Bird Team Windsor, lead by PIBO, details what the city and its citizens—and PIBO!—are doing to raise awareness and provide for birds in each of Nature Canada’s categories. In a meeting with Windsor mayor Drew Dilkens on May 5 of this year, PIBO board members Margaret Atwood and Merilyn Simonds and PIBO executive director Suzanne Friemann outlined our proposal and won the mayor’s full support. “I’m happy to endorse PIBO’s application to make Windsor a Bird Friendly City,” said Mayor Dilkens. Written support from the City is one of the key requirements for certification by Nature Canada, and now we have it!

Covid has been a major distraction over the past few years, but with political will and public pressure, Windsor could very well become Canada’s next Bird-Friendly City.