Lights Out: Providing Safe Passage for Nocturnal Migrants


Every year, billions of birds migrate north in the spring and south in the fall, the majority of them flying at night, navigating with the night sky. However, as they pass over big cities on their way, they can become disoriented by bright artificial lights and skyglow, often causing them to collide with buildings or windows.

While lights can throw birds off their migration paths, bird fatalities are more directly caused by the amount of energy the birds waste flying around and calling out in confusion. The exhaustion can then leave them vulnerable to other urban threats.

Audubon’s Lights Out program is a national effort to reduce this problem. The strategy is simple: by convincing building owners and managers to turn off excess lighting during the months migrating birds are flying overhead, we help to provide them safe passage between their nesting and wintering grounds.

Contribute to Lights Out

Building owners and residents can help by voluntarily turning off unnecessary overnight lighting during migration seasons!

  • Turn off exterior decorative lighting
  • Extinguish pot- and floodlights
  • Substitute strobe lighting wherever possible
  • Reduce atrium lighting wherever possible
  • Turn off interior lighting especially on higher stories
  • Substitute task and area lighting for workers staying late or pull window coverings
  • Down-shield exterior lighting to eliminate horizontal glare and all light directed upward
  • Install automatic motion sensors and controls wherever possible
  • When converting to new lighting assess quality and quantity of light needed, avoiding over-lighting with newer, brighter technology. Looking for good lighting?
  • The International Dark-sky Association has a Fixture Seal of Approval program!
  • During migration seasons, draw blinds or curtains to reduce light spill that contributes to skyglow.

While LEDs are great for saving energy and money, not all LEDs are safe for birds, wildlife, and human health and vision. Research on blue-rich white light LEDs shows them to be a serious risk, both to our environment and to human health.

Luckily there are warm light LED alternatives and emerging best practices in lighting design that include: fully-shielded light fixtures, aiming light down, and carefully considering lighting levels and spectral output. Select warm LED bulbs that are under a 3,000 Kelvin rating.

Taking more steps to decrease the amount of light our buildings emit minimizes unnecessary bird deaths saves money by reducing energy consumption, and supports your or your organization’s sustainability goals.

Visit Portland Audubon’s Lights Out campaign!

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