Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Join “Lights Out Texas” to Protect Migrating Birds

Songbirds such as this Cerulean Warbler are affected more than many other bird groups by window and building collisions (photo by Christopher Wood).

Reducing or eliminating nighttime lighting can make migration much safer for the more than one billion birds that migrate through Texas. “Lights Out Texas” asks homeowners, businesses, and building managers to eliminate or reduce lighting at night from 11pm to 6am during the September–October migration period. Nationwide each year, studies estimate 365 million to nearly a billion birds are killed when they collide with buildings. The Lights Out Texas project will send you an alert in advance of nights when the most birds are migrating – when turning off lights helps most.

“Light pollution can disorient migrating birds and that may be especially true with millions of birds hatched this year making the journey south for the first time,” said Richard Gibbons, Conservation Director for Houston Audubon.

“A lot of migrating birds die smashing into Texas buildings, disoriented by commercial and residential lighting,” said Ben Jones with Texas Conservation Alliance. Houston Audubon and the Texas Conservation Alliance have teamed up with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and others to drive home the Lights Out Texas message.

It’s possible to forecast when the most birds are migrating through the state
BirdCast, a collaborative migration monitoring program, will issue special alerts on nights when migration over Texas cities will be intense. These forecasts are created from models based on weather radar data that glean bird flight information from weather data.

“Starting this fall, all interested people can subscribe to city-specific alerts that highlight when the models predict migration will be intense, and when turning off non-essential lights is imperative for protecting migrating birds,” said Cornell Lab researcher and BirdCast leader Andrew Farnsworth.

Lights Out Texas is also a research project

Scientists from the Cornell Lab and Colorado State University are developing best practices for reducing light at night to save as many migrating birds as possible from injury or death. The goal is to come up with a migration playbook for Texas cities that other regions can use too.

“Fall migration brings a greater volume of birds migrating through than spring migration, and it lasts for a longer period of time,” explained Julia Wang, who heads up the Lights Out project for the Cornell Lab. “Consequently, mortality due to building collisions also appears to be consistently higher during the fall migration period, especially among warblers.”

You can refer to the original news release by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at