Every year, billions of birds fly thousands of miles as they migrate north to their breeding grounds in the spring and south to their wintering grounds in the fall. Migration is one of the most dangerous times in a bird’s life. They encounter many hazards as they travel: predators, bad weather, stopover habitat destruction due to development, food availability disruptions due to climate change, and more.
One of the biggest threats to migrating birds, especially to songbirds since they primarily migrate at night, is brightly lit windows and buildings. Bright lighting at night can cause birds to become disoriented and confused, often causing deadly collisions with buildings and windows. In addition, lights can throw birds way off their migration paths, resulting in exhaustion and vulnerability to predators. The American Bird Conservancy estimates that up to a billion birds are killed each year by collisions with glass windows.
Audubon’s Lights Out Program is a nationwide effort to convince building managers and homeowners to simply turn off excess lighting at night during the months migrating birds are flying overhead, giving them a much safer passage during their migration journey. We are thrilled to announce that we are joining this effort in partnership with St. Johns County Audubon Society and the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens with our new initiative, Lights Out Northeast Florida. This program aims to inform local area residents, business owners, and elected officials about the dangers that bright lights pose to migrating birds with a public information campaign kicking off right now during fall migration.
Another component of the initiative is a data collection effort engaging volunteers to walk downtown areas during spring and fall migration and count birds potentially killed by window strikes. This component is still in the initial planning stages, so we’ll share more information about this in the future when plans are more concrete.
So what can YOU do to help birds during migration season? In our area, fall migration is generally during the months of September through November, and spring migration is generally March through May, so taking these simple steps during those months can help more birds survive their hazardous journey:
- Turn off lights (or draw blinds) from 11 pm until 6 am
- Direct outdoor lights to point downward, instead of upward into the sky
- Switch outdoor floodlights to timed lights or motion sensor lights
- Encourage the businesses you frequent to turn off their lights or reduce the amount of time their lights are on at night
- Share our messages and graphics with family and friends, and use the hashtag #LightsOutForBirds
Thank you for doing your part to help migrating birds!
--Carol Bailey-White, President, October 2020