Ava Wojcik was in her car heading for a north Mississauga parking lot. She removed a huge bag of birdseed and spread it out on a grass-covered path. Geese and a few pigeons made their way for lunch.
It was the start of a routine day for Wojcik, who zig-zags across Mississauga, Etobicoke and downtown Toronto to feed birds.
She says she spreads out seven or eight 15-kilogram bags of Armstrong All Season Blend in a day for her feathered friends. Wojcik usually buys 12 at once, each at about $21.
Wojcik said she often has people calling the police on her for feeding birds in parks in downtown Toronto. The legal compliance officer at Sky Power Global on Bay Street says she is aware that doing so is illegal.
Toronto bylaws make it illegal to feed birds in public places, but they can be fed on private property as long as they meet hygiene standards and do not attract any other wildlife.
“I know it is illegal, and I still do it,” Wojcik said. She said she’s been feeding birds for about a dozen years and cares deeply about them.
“I go through seven or eight bags a day, and I feed (birds) in downtown Toronto and Mississauga,” she said.
She said she is so invested in the task that she knows all the spots her little friends hide in. She said she feeds sparrows who have built a little nest inside a trailer.
“It attracts rodents and pests, and when they eat, they shit,” said Willam Chi, a restaurant owner on Spadina Avenue in Chinatown in downtown Toronto. “Who cleans that?”
He said whenever the birds eat, they excrete all over his place which drives his customers away.
“Why would someone eat in an unhygienic place?” Chi asked.
Indeed, the city agrees with him. The city said feeding birds could “encourage large flocks to roost or perch nearby, creating unsanitary conditions and potentially spreading diseases such as avian flu among large bird populations.”
An amendment was made in 2022 to the existing animal bylaws to prevent the feeding of birds in public places, including parks, and was banned in April 2023.
Chi said he understands that Wojcik is doing a “sweet job” taking care of birds, but he needs to take care of his business first. He said he does feed leftovers to birds but does that in the back of his restaurant so that his place does not get dirty.
“Why is loitering allowed, why are cigarette bits allowed?” Wojcik asked. “Are they not a threat to the general public health?”
She said the laws are moulded to the convenience of the lawmakers, and they are ignoring more important issues and raising unnecessary ones.
But Wojcik said for the most part, she has been treated well by the officers.
“They just turn a blind eye,” she said. She said they tell her that it is a beautiful job that she is doing and wish her the best.
Wojcik said many times people who see her feed the birds bless her, too. That gives her emotional support and strength.
“Although such occasions are rare, they do occur when people praise me for doing this,” she said.
Wojcik said birds do become dependent on feeders for their food but in winter, food is the only thing that keeps them warm.
“They are smart enough to learn how to be on their own again,” she said.
Wojcik said humans were blessed more than speechless animals, so they should do everything they can to help them.
She said she realizes what she is doing is wrong in the eyes of the law, but that won’t stop her.
“It is morally legal, and I will never stop doing this,” Wojcik said.