Each spring billions of birds migrate back north to the upper parts of the United States and Canada. Many are traveling from Mexico, South and Central America, or the southern US.
Birds migrate at night and they use the sky and the stars as their navigation map. Artificial lighting from buildings, street lights, and towers are confusing to the birds and they can become disoriented. This in turn, causes birds to collide with the buildings, especially those made of glass.
Bird vision is different than ours, and they cannot see reflection like we do.
This artificial light can also throw off their migration path, causing the birds confusion and using up priceless energy in distress.
Thousands of birds can perish over a single night due to one single city building. Collision is the second leading cause of death for birds (cats are the #1 cause). Buildings are the most single cause, with cars, and electric lines the following leading causes.
We’re talking between 365-988 million bird deaths each year in the US alone.
Lights Out Programs
Thankfully, some cities in the US have initiated ‘Lights Out’ programs. These are voluntary type programs encouraging building owners to turn off building lights during certain times of the year during certain hours at night (sunset to sunrise) when birds are migrating (April/May and September/October). All in point to reduce the number of bird collisions into the buildings. Some of the programs also have volunteers who scour the grounds around buildings for research purposes or to save injured birds who have a chance.
Cities have been seeing many benefits to the Lights Out programs including saving energy. Reducing light pollution is going to also help other wildlife, and even us humans too.
Read more about the Lights Out Programs: https://www.birdwatchingdaily.com/beginners/helping-birds/lights-out-programs-north-america/
1. Advocate a Lights Out Program in your city
It starts by talking to elected officials and building owners. Audubon Society has some good tips on how to get started with this advocacy. https://www.audubon.org/conservation/project/lights-out
I personalized this letter, pre-written by Audubon, and emailed it to my Mayor in Lexington, KY.
2. Reduce light pollution at home
Only use outdoor lights when you need them. Here are some other tips to reduce light pollution at home.
Motion Lights: If you need security, switch to a motion light fixture. There’s fancier styles of motion lights on the market now that look better than the basic ones. GE even makes motion sensor light bulbs!
GE makes motion sensor light bulbs if you don’t have a motion sensor light fixture.
Safer Light Bulbs: If anything, use warm toned bulbs instead of blue ones (which mimic daylight). I’m unsure about the affects of colored light bulbs. Switch to lower wattage bulbs. High wattage bulbs are usually unnecessary. Your neighbors will also probably be happier. (Wish 2 of my neighbors would read this!)
Solar Lighting: Use some low key solar lighting instead of bright outdoor lights.
Deflect Light: If you do need to keep a light on at night, use something to deflect light the downward. I have ‘turtle safe’ style lights at my house, which directs light downward, instead of out into the air where it is not needed.
Landscaping Lighting: Don’t use landscaping lighting, or use it minimally. As a landscape designer, using landscape lighting minimally and affectively looks better than lighting up the whole landscape at night. I often see landscape lighting done to extreme and I personally don’t think it even looks good.
Bonus: If you reduce light pollution around your home, you’ll probably see more lightening bugs too. Light pollution is severely affecting lightening bug populations.
3. Prevent birds from hitting windows at home
Usually birds see the reflection of surrounding habitat in the window and they think they’re heading toward sky, greenery, or a perch. You can reduce this chance by simply having something in or on the window the birds can see to know the window is solid. Most people have window coverings or grid lines in the windows. If it is a large blank window or a sliding glass door, you can use bird screens or different types of window films to reduce glare.
The following article has some really good tips: https://www.birdwatchingdaily.com/gear/preventing-bird-window-collisions/15-products-prevent-birds-hitting-windows/