Windsor is for the birds, literally: City earns ‘bird-friendly’ designation

While southwestern Ontario is well-known for its birding hotspots, Windsor can now officially call itself a “bird-friendly city.”

The region is the 16th Canadian city to be awarded the designation by Nature Canada, which signifies that it has taken action and created policies that seek to protect the birds and help them thrive. Windsor joins a few other cities in the province that have also been certified, such as London and Toronto.

Windsor had been vying for the title since early 2021, which is when the Pelee Island Bird Observatory (PIBO) began working on a report for certification.

“It’s very exciting,” said the City of Windsor’s environment and sustainability coordinator Jennifer Nantais.

“The City of Windsor cares about birds and all of the residents who enjoy seeing them in their yard, hearing them … it means that we care about nature and about the environment.”

Nantais, who previously worked at PIBO, has been spearheading efforts to get the city its official designation.

Nature Canada began its bird-friendly city program in 2019 and is working to recognize 30 Canadian cities that meet a checklist of items.

A bird is seen in Ojibway Park. (Mike Evans/CBC)

What does it mean to be a bird-friendly city?

To be a bird-friendly city, Nature Canada said a region must meet a certain number of criteria in the following three categories in order to be certified:

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

“A bird-friendly city is a community where birds are celebrated, defended and protected,” said Autumn Jordan, Nature Canada’s urban nature organizer.

“This certification is a badge of honor for the city and all the folks involved in it.”

Windsor is currently in the entry category of the program, meaning it has met about 50 per cent of the points within each of the three categories. But Jordan said if city and community leaders are prepared to do the work, they can increase the city’s score and earn a higher bird-friendly status.

Jordan said Windsor scored especially high in terms of its community outreach and education, but she said it could do better on the following:

  • Including more nature-based climate solutions in its climate change adaptation plan.
  • Increasing the number of windows on municipal buildings that are treated to prevent birds from colliding into them.
  • Collecting data that can help identify areas with a high number of feral and stray cats to reduce these populations.

Donny Moore, a local birder and nature photographer, told CBC News that he thinks the designation is well earned and hopes it will encourage people to become more educated on the importance of the region for various bird species.

“I’ve lived in this area for 14 years and we see changes of birds, different amounts of birds of certain species,” Moore said, adding that when he first moved here he rarely saw bald eagles and now he can’t go out bird watching without seeing at least one.

Windsor photographer Donny Moore says Windsor deserves the bird friendly city title as its worked hard to restore some bird habitats and protect others. (Donny Moore Photography/Facebook)

“[This designation] puts impetus on the [city] to continue to do more, to be more aware.”

Here’s how you can help maintain Windsor’s status

Every two years, Jordan said Nature Canada will reassess the certified cities to ensure they’re still meeting maintaining bird-friendly behaviour.

A cardinal perches on a fence in Windsor’s Ojibway Park. (Mike Evans/CBC)

To help the city keep its status and support local bird species, Nantais and Moore suggested the following tips:

  • Plant native tree species such as oaks or maples.
  • Plant flowers that produce food for birds.
  • Pay attention to the birds in your city to better advocate for them and educate others.
  • Don’t spray yard for mosquitos or spiders, as birds feed on those insects.

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