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Window washer saves struggling seagull from Metro Vancouver balcony

Burnaby rescue organization says it receives calls daily about birds being trapped behind glass.

A seagull was spotted struggling and trapped inside a balcony of a Vancouver apartment for days. 

On April 19, Wildlife Rescue Association of B.C. was contacted by a nearby neighbour, who witnessed the bird flailing frantically from the glass-enclosed patio.

"It would have been very difficult for this bird to be there for long term with no food or water and spending a lot of energy trying to get out,” says support centre lead Jackie McQuillan.

Footage taken by the neighbour, who lives adjacent to the building, shows the seagull trying to find its way off the balcony. 

"They just have no sense that it [the glass] is there, so often times if they get trapped behind a pane of glass. They struggle because they just can’t figure out how to get around it,” says McQuillan. "To us, it looks quite obvious: just fly up and over and life would be grand. But for them, they can’t see... Oftentimes, they will struggle for hours and hours and, in this case, for days."

After getting the call, Wildlife Rescue Association of B.C. started looking at how to safely rescue the seagull. 

McQuillan said they were able to find the building's concierge, but were told there was no one living in the apartment unit, complicating matters as they couldn’t just ask for permission to the balcony. 

Getting creative, staff came up with another solution. 

“We were able to reach a window washer who very kindly went to the balcony and retrieved the bird and they were able to pass it off to one of our volunteers who transported it immediately to our hospital in Burnaby,” McQuillan says.

"It was a lot of work!"

The bird was very weak when it came in; McQuillan says it was thin, dehydrated and quite anemic.

The not-for-profit receives tens of thousands of calls like this a year.

"Calls about birds trapped behind glass or that have impacted glass happen on a daily basis for our organization,” she tells Glacier Media. "We are answering 32,000 telephone calls a year and many of those are related to problems with glass.”

McQuillan notes Wildlife Rescue Association of BC responds to calls across Canada but services the Lower Mainland. 

Sadly, she adds, a lot of birds are dying this way in B.C. 

"They impact and will die upon impact because they will hit full force because they don’t even realize it’s there. This is a huge problem, particularly during migration.” 

Thankfully, this bird is doing well and they are “very optimistic” for its return to the wild. 

How to bird-safe a glass balcony

Wildlife Rescue Association of BC recommends that people put barriers on the outside of glass to break up the reflection and stop birds from hitting it.

"Sometimes people will drape just even pieces of string in front of the window,” she says. "When it is on the inside, there will still be reflection that they won’t be able to perceive.”

There are also decals that can be placed on the glass; they're mostly transparent to humans but visible to birds. 

Another tip? Use a marker on the outside of the glass.

Rescued seagull recovering at a hospital in Burnaby. Wildlife Rescue Association of BC


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