My experience as a volunteer for Bird-Safe Campus – Safe Wings Ottawa

Laurence stands in front of a glass door, a burgundy sign to the right.

As a biology student at the University of Ottawa, I had the opportunity to volunteer through my conservation biology course. I was offered several choices, but I chose to join the Bird-Safe Campus team. I was immediately interested in joining this team as we were going to undertake projects aimed at raising awareness about the environment and promoting the protection of bird fauna. I was also interested in field work, such as patrolling campus buildings.

Early on in my experience as a team member, I had to educate myself about the importance and causes of bird strikes on glass windows in Ottawa and across Canada. I had never heard of the Safe Wings initiative and was shocked to learn that bird strikes were such a big problem. Since dead birds are regularly picked up around buildings by scavengers and janitors, people don’t see the real danger of glass windows on buildings. It was then that I realized that measures had to be taken to reduce the number of collisions. To do this, we had to organize several virtual meetings to discuss ideas and projects that we can undertake with the rest of the team throughout the semester; one of these projects was to join other volunteers in the Great Backyard Bird Count in February at Strathcona Park in Ottawa. We walked around the Rideau River and we had the chance to observe several species of birds including a hawk and many mallards! The event was a great success!

In early spring it was important to learn how to patrol buildings at risk and how to rescue an injured or dead bird through Safe Wings virtual meetings and in the field with the help of experienced volunteers. After the patrol orientation, I was often able to patrol downtown Ottawa and campus. Unfortunately, April was quite cold, so the bird migration took place a little later, but I found and collected several birds that had bumped into the windows of buildings.

What I will get the most from my experience is the fact that we must continue to push for the regulation of building construction in the city of Ottawa and to make all buildings safe from birds. Knowing that bird strikes are a problem and that birds strike regularly and seeing it in person are two different things. It really broke my heart to see so many bird bodies here in the city. Therefore, it is imperative to protect migratory birds to secure their future.

I am also grateful to have been able to meet volunteers who are passionate about the cause and who inspired me to take initiative and get involved in my community to protect native and endangered bird species. It was an unforgettable experience and I am happy to continue my academic journey as a member of Bird-Safe Campus. — Laurence Godin

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