What Does it Mean to be a Bird Friendly City?

Wednesday, January 25, 2023
At the end of 2022, the Government of Canada announced 14 new bird friendly cities - a very exciting way to round out the year. Barrie, Ontario made the list, along with other Ontario cities including Guelph, Burlington, Hamilton, Peterborough, and Windsor. 

Juvenile Cedar Waxwing enjoying a juniper berry. Photo by Shayna Hartley. 

What exactly is a bird friendly city?

This certification was created by Nature Canada, funded by Environment and Climate Change Canada. The first certified cities, in 2021, were Toronto, Calgary, London, and Vancouver. As early as 2019, research highlighted a net loss of 3 billion birds or 29% of overall abundance since 1970. 

Scientists often use a "representative group" to assess the biodiversity in ecosystems.  Birds can give us an indication of whether a system is healthy or not.  Fully diverse ecology is necessary to support range and abundance of species when these numbers are lower than expected, it means that there is lower overall ecological diversity.  With the numbers found in that 2019 study, the birds are declining on a massive, global scale - it means we have work to do to maintain biodiversity and help ecosystems thrive so that birds can thrive too. 

A few items are important for cities to not only be safer for birds, but to support them as well:

  • Removal of threats: human introduced threats to birds include domestic/stray cats, window strikes, and the use of pesticides. To learn more about the impacts of cats on bird populations, read our blog on the topic here. To protect birds from window collisions in your own home, please see our blog on the topic here. We also have information on how pesticides negatively impact birds here. 
  • Create, Protect and Restore Natural Environments: at the end of 2022 we had a great, local conservation success story in our region with the return of the Kirtland's Warbler to restored habitat in Simcoe County. This only proves how imperative this is. At home, you can garden for birds to support them by providing habitat, shelter, and food sources. 

Kirtland's Warbler in restored habitat. Photo by Kristen Martyn. 

  • Engage and Educate: by teaching people about the benefits of bird friendly cities and supporting birds in general, we can all celebrate birds together. 
All three of these points are the pillars of Bird Friendly City program. 

Here are some further quick facts, from the Government of Canada, about the program:

  • In each municipality seeking certification as a Bird Friendly City, teams are established and residents are actively involved in protecting and monitoring their local bird populations.

  • The country hosts approximately 393 species of migratory birds on a seasonal cycle. Habitat loss due to urban and coastal development, agriculture, and various land use changes are the main threats to migratory birds.

  • The Government of Canada is protecting migratory bird habitat by moving toward its goal of conserving 25 percent of Canada’s land, fresh water and oceans by 2025, with a target of 30 percent by 2030.

Our hope is to see EVERY community across the province, and country, to become bird friendly. In the meantime, we can all do our part by taking steps at home to support birds by:

  • Keeping cats indoors 
  • Avoiding the use of pesticides 
  • Using window decals to deter window collisions
  • Planting native species to create bird habitat 
  • Providing resource (food, water, bird houses) for birds 

We, at Wild Birds Unlimited Barrie and Newmarket, love the fact that we already do and will continue to engage and educate our audiences and customers about the birds we see in Ontario, and how we can support them. Thank you for being a part of our community. 

To more bird friendly cities in 2023! 



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