A conservation charity is taking action to make Canada’s municipalities a better home for both birds and people. Nature Canada’s Bird Friendly City certification program recognizes and honours municipalities that have developed policies and actions to protect birds. Four Canadian cities – Toronto, Vancouver, London, and Calgary – have secured the title of Bird Friendly City through the program. But with Nature Canada aiming to certify at least thirty Canadian municipalities under the program by World Migratory Bird Day in 2022, there’s lots of room for smaller towns and cottage municipalities to step up to the plate and earn the Bird Friendly City title.
The certification program was developed to address the many challenges birds face trying to survive alongside people. “Just in North America, over the last fifty years we’ve lost three billion birds from our skies, which is an astronomical number,” says Aly Hyder Ali, Urban Nature Organizer at Nature Canada. ‘A lot of these losses are happening in our cities, towns, and other urban environments.”
To achieve Bird Friendly City certification, municipalities must conserve bird populations through three types of actions: reducing threats to birds, protecting and restoring habitat, and engaging the community on bird-friendly practices through education and outreach. Examples of bird-friendly actions include enacting regulatory measures to address bird collisions with buildings, developing a municipal biodiversity strategy, and celebrating an annual World Migratory Bird Day event.
One of the best aspects of the program is that anyone can get the ball rolling on certification. Ali says that anyone who is interested in turning their municipality into a Bird Friendly City should start by reading through the program’s website and completing an introductory questionnaire. After that, pick up the phone and call Ali himself.
“Even if folks just want to get an understanding of what the program is and how it could be implemented in their community, feel free to reach out to me,” says Ali. “A lot of our partnerships have been established by starting out with one phone call.”
Interested parties will go on to form a “Bird Team’. A Bird Team is a standing committee or coalition of individuals within a specific municipality that acts to make that municipality into a Bird Friendly City. A Bird Team can consist of anyone within that municipality that is actively interested in supporting better bird friendly policies or actions; Bird Teams have included representatives from nature groups, birding groups, municipal staff, indigenous communities, for-profit businesses, schools, and individual residents, says Ali.
“They’re our partners on the ground,” says Ali. “We support them through developing strategies and providing resources. But they’re the ones having meetings with the municipality.” He says this method provides a better incentive for municipal representatives to implement bird-friendly policies because they can see active local support for the changes.
Achieving the Bird Friendly City certification can help a municipality evolve into a space that is better for both birds and people. Ali says that not only does the certification program address the decline of biodiversity in towns and cities, it also uplifts communities.
On its program website, Nature Canada highlights the economic benefits birds can provide to a community through eco-tourism, and adds that conserving natural areas and promoting bird-watching can keep residents active and engaged with one another through nature.
“We know that if we hear a variety of bird songs close to our homes, that’s a very good stress reliever,” says Ali.
You can find out more about the Bird Friendly City certification program online.