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Toronto’s Magnificent Water Birds

The City of Toronto is home to one of the largest populations of water birds on the Great Lakes, reminding us all that Toronto is a port city. But sadly, not all water birds are welcomed here.

For over two decades, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) has been destroying tens of thousands of Ring-billed Gull and Canada Geese eggs across the city’s waterfront. The City is now applying harassment techniques to control the expansion of the Double-crested Cormorant colony at Tommy Thompson Park, also known as the Leslie Street Spit – currently the largest colonial water bird colony on the Great Lakes

Since 1998, the City of Toronto has systematically destroyed thousands of Canada Geese eggs, even in natural habitats such as area wetlands. So thorough is this program that nest sites are tracked on a GIS database, and the City spends over 80.000 dollars to cull geese alone. Mute swan eggs are also destroyed. But the longest running killing program began in 1984 targeting Ring-billed Gulls at the Leslie Street Spit, and continues today with no public review.

Egg destruction ensures a slow and inconspicuous elimination of water birds from Toronto’s waterfront, but can be noticeably marked by the absence of young chicks. With your help, The Peaceful Parks Coalition hopes to reverse this policy and convince the City of Toronto to embrace a wildlife policy that celebrates the arrival of these magnificent birds each spring to our city.

How You Can Help

Please send a personal note to Mayor David Miller asking him to stop the killing, and adopt a wildlife policy that fosters and protects a vibrant waterbird population across the Greater Toronto Area.

How to contact Mayor Miller:
David Miller, Mayor Toronto City Hall 2nd Fl., 100 Queen St. West Toronto, Ontario M5H 2N2
Email: mayor_miller@toronto.ca

Please copy your city councillor too: http://app.toronto.ca/im/council/councillors.jsp

More information: A biography of Toronto’s water birds

Techniques For Controlling Bird Populations

Harassment: Colonial water birds can be very sensitive birds that prefer to nest in quiet and remote islands or ‘spits’ near open water. Sometimes simple but continual harassment or disturbance such as yelling and clapping or the presence of humans is enough to permanently scare off the birds. While this may appear to be a harmless control method, it can cause such extreme stress in the wild birds that they abandon ideal nesting sites, not just for that particular nesting season, but permanently. It forces birds into less optimal habitat, and may contribute to nest failure. It may also cause loss of body mass due to stress, and compromise the bird’s overall vitality.

Egg Oiling: Egg oiling is a lethal method of population control because it aims to reduce the overall bird population. The objectives are equivalent to that of shooting but the results are achieved over a longer time period. The application of mineral oil on eggs suffocates the embryo inside, and fools the adult bird into believing their eggs are still alive. This keeps the adult sitting on its clutch and discourages re-nesting. (Many birds will produce a second clutch if their first clutch fails. Nesting behaviour continues until summer days begin to wane - a natural marker for nesting birds that signals the end of the nesting season). Egg oiling controls bird populations by suppressing the production of hatchlings compounded by natural mortality of adults.

Colonial water birds are dedicated parents and will not leave their nests during incubation. The effects of egg oiling on nesting adults can result in incubation behaviour being extended up to two extra weeks. Average incubation period is 3.5 weeks. While sitting on their nests, adults do not feed, do not drink, and are susceptible to exposure. It interferes with natural reproductive instincts, and causes disturbances similar to that of harassment.

Nest Removal: This technique involves knocking nests out of trees with long poles or destroying ground nests. To avoid re-nesting attempts by cormorants, nest removal should occur late into the incubation period destroying both nests and eggs or chicks.

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