Cities Go Lights Out For Bird Migration Season

RALEIGH, NC — Billions of birds are migrating south for the winter, flying through our skies at night and hoping to make a safe trip.

In an effort to help, certain cities across the state are encouraging you to turn off your lights at night. Because during migration season, hundreds of millions of birds die by flying into buildings, often confused by their light.

What You Need To Know

  • Billions of birds are migrating south for the winter and face variety of dangers on their journey, including tall buildings at night
  • Because birds navigate in part using the night sky, some cities are adopting lights out programs, so birds don’t get thrown off course or crash into buildings
  • The City of Raleigh adopted a lights out program in 2021. Shortly after, Asheville, Greensboro and the Town of Matthew followed
  • Migration season runs from Sept. 10 through Nov. 30

“When there are bright city lights, the lights confuse birds,” said Senior Communications Director of Audubon North Carolina, Ben Graham. “They (the lights) can cause birds to fly around in circles because they kind of lose their track, or run into buildings. And there are studies out there, that up to billion birds die every year from building collisions.”

It’s why Graham, and other local Audubon chapters, encourage cities to go “lights out” during migration to help protect birds at night.

The City of Raleigh adopted the program last year. Asheville, Greensboro and the Town of Matthews also participate.

Audubon North Carolina says homeowners can help too and provides these recommendations to help birds navigate the skies during migration season:

  • Turn off the lights outside of your home, and turn upward-facing lights down
  • Close blinds and curtains at home and before leaving your office for the day
  • If you work in an office building, ask your employer to turn off exterior upward-facing lights, as well as indoor office lights from 11 pm to 6 am

“Birds already face threats on their wintering grounds, on their breeding grounds, while they are migrating,” Graham said. “It’s important for people to remember that there are concrete things that we can do at home that make a huge difference.”

And to help people understand just how epic of a journey birds make, The Audubon Network just released The Bird Migration Explorer.

It’s a free interactive digital platform that lets you see how hundreds of bird species travel along their migration route. It also shows how migrating birds connect your city to countries across the globe.

“For example, if you plug in the city Raleigh, it will show you that the city is connected to 26 other countries by migrating birds … that’s most of the countries in the hemisphere,” Graham said.

According to a study from Science in 2019, North America has lost 3 billion birds, nearly 30% of the total since the 1970s. The findings are raising fear that some birds could disappear.

Migration season runs from Sept. 10 through Nov. 30.

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