Have you noticed that it’s a little darker out than usual? Millions of migratory birds pass through North Carolina each spring and fall, largely under the cover of night. In an effort to make their journey a little safer, the City of Raleigh has joined “Lights Out.” All non-essential lighting in city buildings will be turned off between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. from March 15 to May 31.
In 1993, FLAP (Fatal Light Awareness Program) was created, and marked the first initiative that raises awareness of the strain light brings for birds in urban areas. Following that, In 1999, Audubon created the “Lights Out” program and since then many other cities have followed and developed initiatives to save birds.
According to BirdCast.info, light pollution is a major problem for migrating birds as bright lights can attract and disorient nocturnally migratory birds, potentially resulting in accidents with buildings (not to mention other urban threats like predatory animals—cats—and toxins). Every year, an estimated 365 to 988 million birds are killed in building crashes, including a number of species of great conservation concern. “Lights Out” also has other benefits. Reducing the amount of light emitted by city buildings will also save money by lowering energy usage, helping the city's environmental goals and Raleigh’s Community Climate Action Plan.
Why are birds important? Birds provide ecosystem services (like keeping insect populations down), act as benchmarks for environmental health, increase livability and connect people of all ages and abilities to the natural world.
To get involved, simply flip the switch: turn off or lower non-essential illumination during important migration periods. “Lights Out” has positive outcomes for everyone involved, including birds, cities and the individuals who care about them. Even the flick of a tiny light switch can make all the difference in working towards a dark sky for migrating birds.
By Evelyn Summers, Staff Writer