Since 1990, cities in the US have been gradually dimming or dimming outdoor lights to help one of their most vulnerable populations – migratory birds.
Lights Out programs, organized by conservation and civil society groups like the Audubon Society, have arisen in 20 different states, plus DC and Toronto, and involve the help of homeowners, their renters, and business owners to make cities safe for migratory birds in the spring and fall.
Birds use heavenly tracks to navigate thousands of miles along flyways. Some of these routes involve passing through some of the biggest and brightest cities in North America. Light pollution erases stars and other navigational points used by birds, causing them to collide with buildings.
Climate change, feral cats, habitat loss and more are already affecting bird populations across the country, and collisions with buildings and power lines are also a major hazard.
The most recent Lights Out program has been organized in Philadelphia, where a squad of different defenders they are trying to get multi-story businesses and departments to dim or turn off exterior lights between April 1 and May 31 and August 15 to November 15.
Advocates include the Philadelphia Building Owners and Managers Association, (BOMA), which lists 475 addresses and has managed to get an “extremely strong” response.
“We have some early adopters and the list runs closer to 20 buildings, many of which are iconic and highly recognizable members of the Philadelphia skyline, such as One and Two Liberty Place, Comcast Technology Center and Comcast Center, Mellon Bank Building and all of Brandywine The Realty Trust’s Center City and University City buildings, ”said BOMA CEO Kristine Kiphorn, according to Associated Press.
“We can do our part in the community to help preserve the bird population and, at the same time, we can save energy, saving money for our tenants and our assets.”
Little gray birds, hornbills, yellow-throats, and white-throated sparrows are among the most vulnerable species that pass through Philadelphia, falling prey not only to light pollution but also to reflective glass that can reflect the sky or trees.
Bringing conservation to Texas
Elsewhere, Laura Bush’s nonprofit organization, Texan by nature, has helped carry out several Lights Out initiatives in Texas as one in three migratory birds in the US, about a billion in total, passes through the Lone Star State.
“I know that you and all Texans care deeply about protecting the wildlife and ecosystems that will sustain us for generations to come,” Bush said in a letter, according to local news reports. “My vision is of a dark Texas sky, which guarantees a safe flight for the birds on their journey home.”
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