National Park City: How do we make our homes and cities safer for birds?

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Figuring out how to make our homes and cities safer for wildlife isn’t always easy, but for some problems the answers are as clear as glass.

Thing and Press are trying to help Christchurch become an internationally renowned national park city – a greener, healthier and wilder place to live.

It is a large-scale, long-term vision that will give the relationship between man and nature a central role in city planning and decision-making.

But two local environmentalists say preventing our city from being a “death trap” for birds means more than just planting trees.

READ MORE:
* Christchurch isn’t the only place in New Zealand striving to become a national park
* Innovative decals offered as a solution to native birds crashing into Wellington Cable Car terminal
* How Christchurch lost his tūī, and how to bring them back

Christchurch is New Zealand’s only major city without tūī, one of the country’s most beloved songbirds.

Since they were reintroduced to the Banks Peninsula in 2009, of the 35 birds with known causes of death, about half have been killed by hitting windows or glass railings.

Project Kererū founder Nik Hurring sells several hundred packages of WindowAlert decals each year, which she imports and sells to raise funds to purchase food for the birds in her care.

Decals are bird or leaf-shaped stickers for the exterior of windows, and although they are barely visible to humans, they contain a component that reflects ultraviolet light.

“It looks like a red light for the birds.”

Hurring, based in Dunedin, has a vested interest in preventing collisions, as she rehabilitates dozens of injured kererū each year.

An injured kereru is treated at Massey Wildlife Hospital (file photo).

Robert Kitchin / Tips

An injured kereru is treated at Massey Wildlife Hospital (file photo).

“It’s a huge problem. I had 47 birds until last year, 26 were definitive window hits and six more were probable window hits.

“There have already been quite a few this year as well.

The window strike is no laughing matter for Kererū, she said, with many bones broken on impact.

They often break their coracoid bones, which are close to the heart, and this can kill them instantly.

“They also need the coracoid to fly … If they’re wrongly tuned, they’ll never fly again.”

The Kereru also have a pocket in their upper chest for storing food, called the harvest, which Hurring says can also rupture on impact.

“If they hit [a window] when their crop is full, it will burst like a balloon … Sometimes they can be repaired surgically, but not always.

Having two windows facing each other – which birds perceive as a “flight line” across a building – is a crash factor, she said, as are windows that reflect trees and the sky.

The bold outline left by an unfortunate kererū after his collision with a bus shelter.

PROVIDED

The bold outline left by an unfortunate kererū after his collision with a bus shelter.

Double-glazed windows, in particular, can be “really reflective,” and combined with the weak winter sun – or for younger, less savvy birds – can be a death sentence.

WindowAlert decals aren’t the only product on the market that keeps birds from hitting windows.

The Urban Wildlife Trust was successful in raising $ 9,000 of the $ 11,000 needed for the glass terminal atop Wellington’s cable car to be decorated with a Canadian product called Feather Friendly, after dozens of kererū, kākāriki and korimako were injured or killed while flying in its huge glass walls.

Spokesman Tony Stoddard said they estimate around 300 birds a year fall victim to the building, and staff continue to work with the owners of the building to raise the remaining $ 2,000.

The point system, designed by Feather Friendly and placed at optimum spacing for visibility, alerts birds to the fact that they are flying towards a solid object.

PROVIDED

The point system, designed by Feather Friendly and placed at optimum spacing for visibility, alerts birds to the fact that they are flying towards a solid object.

Made up of hundreds of tiny vinyl stickers spread evenly over glass surfaces, Stoddard said Feather Friendly offers a 98% success rate in stopping the window strike.

The trust provides it for residential buildings through Kererū Discovery, but for commercial buildings it must be specially made to order, shipped to New Zealand, and applied within four weeks.

Feather Friendly works differently from decals, he said.

“They’re amazing, they shatter the reflection on the glass surface for the birds … and [because] they have no UV component, they work for all birds, including those like the ruru which are nocturnal.

More and more people are realizing the seriousness of a window strike issue, Stoddard said, but it doesn’t always translate into action.

“It’s pretty hard to get people to engage because they don’t like to admit it’s happening. There seems to be a little sense of shame.

“[But] that’s the right thing – there is something you can do about it.


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