Story at a glance

  • Last October, thousands of migratory birds died after colliding with buildings in Center City Philadelphia.
  • In response, Bird Safe Philly began campaigning to make the city safer for the millions of birds killed each year in collisions.
  • The Lights Out initiative encourages building owners and managers to turn off and block as many external and internal building lights as possible at night.

Have you ever turned the corner while driving at night, only to be blinded by the headlights of oncoming traffic? That’s what it can feel like for millions of birds migrating through cities at this time of the year — and for most, it's fatal. 

After thousands of migratory birds collided with buildings in Center City Philadelphia and died last October, dozens of buildings in Philadelphia are dimming their lights at night to allow birds to pass through safely. Many species use the position of the stars or the earth’s magnetic field to navigate during their annual migrations, so Bird Safe Philly has organized the Lights Out initiative from the beginning of April through the end of May and then again from mid-August to mid-November, when the flocks return. 


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“Even though glass is a huge problem, the lights are the main reason why we have mass collision events,” Keith Russell, program manager for urban conservation at Audubon Mid-Atlantic, told Fast Company. “There have been a couple of those recorded in the city in the past, and there have also been mass collision deaths around the country in other cities. And they’re always associated with lights.”

The organization, which also works on collision monitoring and community education, has partnered with the city, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, Delaware Valley Ornithological Club and several chapters of the Audubon Society on the initiative. Dozens of management companies have agreed to participate this year, turning off or dimming their lights from midnight to 6 a.m.

The program is also asking people living in low-rise buildings and single-family homes to participate — year-round if possible — to help curb not only bird collisions, but also other environmental concerns, including light pollution. Dozens of other cities across the country have similar programs, including New York, Atlanta and Chicago. 


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Published on May 20, 2021