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Advocacy

Lights Out for Birds

Lights Out for Birds is a voluntary effort to reduce unnecessary lighting in our region during evening hours throughout spring and fall migration. About 70% of North American birds are migratory, and 80% of these birds migrate at night. Migrating birds use the moon, stars, and electromagnetic fields to make their migratory trips successfully. When flying by cities, though, they can become disoriented by the buildings and light pollution below. This combination often results in high bird mortality as birds can collide with buildings or become exhausted in an attempt to escape the urban environment.

In the U.S., for example, an estimated 340 million birds die from collisions with city buildings, and another 253 million birds die from collisions with residential buildings. This includes both daytime and nighttime collisions. Weather fronts during migration can exacerbate the challenges faced by migratory birds on this already difficult journey.

Houston Audubon’s Lights Out Action Alerts are announced during times when high predicted migration through our region coincides with a weather front. By using Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s BirdCast program, Houston Audubon staff are able to track predicated migration levels and weather forecasts to make science-based determinations of when birds at the greatest risk of collision. Distributing these alerts can serve as a reminder for residents and businesses alike to turn off their lights for migratory birds.

There are three levels of actions that individuals and businesses can take to participate in Lights Out for Birds.

  • Good: Committing to participating in targeted lights-out includes turning off lights in response to issued Lights Out Action Alerts from Houston Audubon. These alerts are distributed when there are periods of both high predicted migration and weather conditions that can force high numbers of birds to fly at lower altitudes.
  • Better: Committing to a lights-out migration means turning off lights during the period of peak migration. This requires ensuring your building or home’s lights are turned off at night from April 19 to May 7. Research has found that this period of 19 days is when over 50% of birds migrate through our area.
  • Best: Committing to a total lights-out migration is the best way to help migratory birds avoid nighttime collisions. This requires ensuring your building or home’s lights are turned out at night during the entire migration period, March 15 to May 15 in spring and September 15 to November 15 in fall.

If you would like to participate and receive Lights Out Action Alerts, sign up above or follow Houston Audubon on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. If your company or business is interested in participating in the Lights Out for Birds program, please email sflournoy@houstonaudubon.org.


Sign Up to Receive Action Alerts

Sign up here to receive Houston Audubon’s Lights Out Action Alerts.

Action Alerts remind citizens and business alike to turn off their lights when high predicted migration through our region coincides with a weather front. Houston Audubon staff use Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s BirdCast program to make these science-based recommendations for the Houston area.

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Additional Tips

  • Encourage office colleagues to keep their blinds closed when working at night.
  • Recognize that turning lights out saves energy in addition to helping birds.
  • Identify passionate volunteers who may want to encourage the community and share interest about birds and other wildlife.
  • Assess bird strikes if they do happen. Submit findings to Fatal Light Awareness Program (see below).
  • Must have lights? Design lighting to focus down to the ground or use small lights on the ground that do not aim skyward. Find more information below.
  • Make choices for the daytime, too. Choose less reflective glass, use deterrent adhesives, and place indoor plants away from windows where birds may mistake them for habitat. For more information on daytime strikes, visit the websites below.

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