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Clear Glass in Ottawa's LRT Stations Would Definitely Lead to More Bird Deaths

Ottawa activist, Anouk Hoedeman, founder of Safe Wings Ottawa, has complained that the city’s new Light Rail Transit stations which are surrounded by an extensive amount of clear glass is posing a serious threat to the city’s bird population, says a report on Ottawa Citizen.

Safe Wings Ottawa is an activist group that fights to ensure that city structures are safe for birds, the group says over 250,000 bird deaths occur annually in Ottawa as a result of clear glass on buildings. Bright lights inside buildings at night also lead to bird deaths as the lights lure the birds towards the building, only for the birds to slam into the glass.

“What we have in these stations is an awful lot of glass,” said Hoedeman. “We already have a big issue with birds colliding with buildings. These stations will pose a huge additional hazard to birds. There is no pattern on the glass, there is nothing to make them bird-friendly.”

“Birds either see reflections of habitats in glass or they see through glass,” She continued. “They just don’t understand glass. If they see a reflection of a tree, they just think that is a tree.”

Hoedeman also complained about several other buildings in the city such as the National Arts Centre expansion, the building also has plain clear glass that is detrimental to birds downtown and several LRT stations which are not only built with clear glass but located areas where there are high populations of birds.

Speaking recently on the issue, the City of Ottawa said they were taking measures at the new LRT stations to prevent bird deaths. Steve Cripps, director of O-Train construction in an e-mail, said that “With the high number of birds killed every year in Ottawa in collisions with glass and glass-like structures, the City of Ottawa felt it was important to try and address this in its LRT planning,”. He is quoted in the report, as saying that builder Rideau Transit Group’s architects and planners “are well aware of the serious threat (and) took several steps to incorporate this knowledge into their designs.”

According to him, the stations will work towards lowering lighting levels, make use of overhangs and minimize reflective glass. They would also limit the vegetation around the stations to keep birds further away from the train stops.

These promises did not seem to convince Hoedeman.

“I have not been reassured by anything that they have told me,” said Hoedeman. “From what I’ve seen in the stations downtown, they all look pretty lethal to me. I’m looking at all that glass and it is not bird-friendly glass. I’m still quite concerned that this is going to be a big problem.”

Notwithstanding Hoedeman’s fears, there are actually certain buildings in the city who have already implemented further safeguards after a rising bird death toll, such as a second-storey overpass at City Hall, and the Place Bell at 160 Elgin St., which made lines through the glass that birds can see and avoid the building.

In 2016, National Post reported that following a large number of bird deaths, at Ottawa city hall, officials were forced to cover-up a glass walkway with brown paper.