Go Lights Out for Migrating Birds

Tips for Providing Safe Passage for Nocturnal Migrants

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Turn your lights out to help the billions of migrating birds navigating south in the night sky, so they safely reach their winter destinations.

When birds pass over big cities during their journey, they are attracted to artificial light, especially during inclement weather. 

Lights can throw birds off their migration paths, causing confusion, disorientation, and exhaustion and leaving them vulnerable to other urban threats like collisions with buildings and windows.

In addition, birds circle structures for an extended time, leading to their accelerated use of energy stores critical for migration.

The result can be unfortunate, preventable tragedies. 

The Audubon Society says dozens of species are affected, such as priority species like the Allen’s Hummingbird, Wood Thrush, and Golden-winged Warbler. 

Just one building can cause significant problems for birds in an area. For example, one week in 2017, nearly 400 passerines (warblers, grosbeaks, etc.) caught in the floodlights of a 32-story Texas skyscraper died from window collisions.  

If you’re reading this story, you’re someone who loves birds and is interested in their well-being. And there is something you can do to help save our migrating birds.

Crows in a night sky during a full moon. Crows are American Crows can partially migratory depending on their location

Turn the Lights Out

Audubon’s Lights Out program is a national effort to reduce this problem.

By educating building owners and managers to turn off excess lighting during the months migrating birds are flying overhead, we provide migrating birds with a safe passage between their nesting and wintering grounds.

Tips to Go Lights Out

Here’s how you can go Lights Out!

Building owners, businesses, developers, and homeowners can help protect migrating birds by turning off all non-essential nighttime lighting on structures from 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. each night.

1. Don’t use landscape lighting to light up trees or gardens where birds may be resting.

2. Close blinds at night to reduce the light emitted from windows.

3. For essential lights (like security lighting), use the following dark skies friendly lighting practices:

-Aim lights down

-Use lighting shields to direct light downwards and to avoid light shining into the sky or trees

-Use motion detectors and sensors, so lights are only on when you need them

4. Publish your commitment and share your success with your community. Help tenants understand why it’s essential to turn lights out during migration season.

5. Share your success and influence with others over your social media platform to make a positive change for wildlife and energy efficiency.

6. Tell a reporter about your success. Your commitment to go lights out to save birds is newsworthy. Push the news out to local and regional media channels.

Additional Guidelines for Buildings Taller Than 3 Stories

Extinguish or dim: Exterior and decorative lighting (i.e., spotlights, logos, clock faces, greenhouses, and antenna lighting); lobby/atrium lighting; and lighting in perimeter rooms on all building levels.

Avoid: Floodlights; illuminating interior plants or fountains and unoccupied floors; scheduling cleaning crews after dark; and blue-rich white light emissions (lighting with a color temperature of over 3000 Kelvin).

Use: Desk lamps or task lighting rather than overhead lights; blinking lighting instead of continuously burning lights; and warm light sources (less than 3000 Kelvin) for outdoor lighting.

With your help, we can dramatically reduce the hazards of light pollution in cities nationwide and allow birds to resume their typical migratory behaviors.


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