Monday, September 15, 2008

Lights Out

With fall migration well underway, and having just read Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds by Scott Weidensaul, I have been thinking a lot about the dangers that migratory birds face and there is one that we as humans can so easily fix. We must put an end to the millions of deaths caused by high-rise buildings in cities during migration and this is a really simple thing for us to fix. All it takes it to turn off the light. That’s it, just turn the lights off from 11 pm to dawn. How hard is that?

Two cities have already made major strides towards saving migrant birds.

Toronto was the first city to make a major effort towards starting a Lights Out program in their downtown area. They have made a serious attempt to encourage all of the buildings to turn off their lights and have created extensive marketing materials that are displayed around the city. One of the most innovative marketing pieces that they have developed are videos that are played in some of the elevators in the high-rises around the city that explain the problems that city lights cause and encouraging people that work in the building to turn off their lights when they leave. Toronto has had great success with this project and is a model for all other cities.

For more information on the Toronto project visit:

Chicago is the first city in the United States to implement a Lights Out program. They have also done a great job getting many of the local buildings to agree to turn off their lights during migration. All buildings in the city have agreed to at least dim their lights during migration which is amazing in a city with as many buildings as Chicago. Before the lights were put out in Chicago it is estimated that as many as 10,000 birds were dying each year.

For more information about the Chicago project visit:

It is very important that all of us do our part to help these programs succeed in cities across the world. If your city already has a program, find out what you can do to help. Whether it be working to get many buildings in your city to participate or even talking to the building manager where you work, you can have a huge impact on migratory birds. If your city does not have a program, why not start one. I am sure that many birders in your area would be interested in participating in it and helping you make a program such as this succeed. This is a simple thing to do that can save the lives of millions of migratory birds. Please let us know if you have any questions about how you can get involved.

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