MPW.72 / 2020 Protector of the Birds by Lance McMillan
Photographer
Lance McMillan
Team Chapnick

Story Summary

In a church basement in downtown Toronto, next to a freezer full of dead birds, Paloma Plant starts work early as a co-founder of the Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP) Canada. The registered charity raises awareness of the fatal dangers that buildings pose to birds. Before the city wakes, Plant begins her search for both injured and dead birds in the downtown area. Injured birds get immediate care and are transported to the Toronto Wildlife Centre if needed. Dead birds get cataloged and stored in a freezer where they may eventually end up in the ornithology department at the Royal Ontario Museum. Plant sees multiple species of birds fall victim to largely preventable building collisions, often within a short time frame. This makes her angry. However, seeing buildings make effective changes - leading to sharp decreases in bird strikes - keeps her going.

The patrols cover the Greater Toronto Area through the help of a vast network of dedicated volunteers who find the dead or injured birds that have collided with glass. Strikes are documented and entered into the mapper - a global tracker showing bird/building collisions around the world - with dead birds being collected in a small bag. If the birds are still living, Plant quickly tends to their injury with a dose of the plant-based remedy arnica in order to help facilitate their safe return to the FLAP office where she can assess and assist them further.

Despite the effort that Plant and a team of over 120 volunteers put into making these glass landscapes less deadly, they estimate that there are about one billion bird strikes in North America per year. Plant believes that to be a conservative figure.