Lights Out for Birds
Most North American migratory birds fly at night, and lights on buildings can disorient birds on their paths, resulting in fatal collisions. The Upper Texas Coast plays a key role on the Central Flyway, an important migratory path for birds. Birds that move along and across the Gulf of Mexico depend on safe passage through the Houston-Galveston area. Throughout migration, and particularly during storm fronts, turning Lights Out for Birds can make a big difference.
Each night and each light turned out helps save migrating birds!
We encourage businesses, buildings, and individuals across the state to turn off all nonessential lights from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. throughout spring migration (March 15-June 15), especially during Texas’ peak spring bird migration period from April 19 to May 7.
Migration Alerts and Call for Action
Houston Audubon’s Lights Out for Birds Program started in 2017, after a large collision event in Galveston. Thanks to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Colorado State University’s BirdCast bird migration forecast maps, Houston Audubon staff were able to track migration predictions for the region and issue alerts to the community when a chance of high migration coincided with weather events.
In 2020, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology approached Houston Audubon to establish a partnership and expand the program into Lights Out Texas! This program brought together individuals, organizations, and city leaders from across the state in an effort to expand the reach of the Lights Out Action Alerts, to inspire governmental support, and to establish a statewide collision monitoring effort.
Thanks to Cornell and CSU, Lights Out Action Alerts are now automated and available for Bird Cities across the state! To sign up to receive alerts when migration is predicted “high” for your city, subscribe on the BirdCast website. These alerts can serve as a reminder for residents and businesses alike to turn off their lights for migratory birds.
In Spring of 2021, Mayor Turner issued a proclamation declaring “Lights Out Nights” in Houston, encouraging all businesses, residents, and building managers to turn off non-essential exterior lighting from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. during the period of peak migration for birds through Texas. Read the press release here.
If your company or business is interested in participating in the Lights Out for Birds program, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why Lights Out
- Migrating birds use the moon, stars, and electromagnetic fields to make their migratory trips successful
- About 70% of North American birds are migratory, and 80% of these species migrate at night. City Lights can cause birds to become disoriented which can lead to building collisions
- In the U.S. an estimated 340 million birds die from collisions with city buildings
- Weather fronts during migration can exacerbate the challenges faced by migratory birds on this already difficult journey.
- 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.
Lights Out Texas in the News
March 14, 2021: Laura Bush’s Op-ed about the importance of the Lights Out Texas program.
April 17, 2020: Colorful fact sheet published by the partnership.
April 16, 2020: News release by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology