Raleigh goes ‘lights out’ to help migrating songbirds

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The leaves are changing colors and the weather is starting to change.

For millions of birds across the United States, and right here in North Carolina, that means it’s time to take flight.

But that flight isn’t always easy.

Flocks of songbirds not only have to navigate thousands of miles, dealing with all kinds of weather, but they have to fly through bright city lights.

This may not seem like a problem to us, but to the birds, it can be deadly.

“Somewhere in the neighborhood of a billion birds die each year from running into buildings and windows of residences,” explains Phillip Doerr, the chair of the Wake Audubon Conservation Committee.

Birds are attracted to light, so lights in and around buildings throw them off course.

So Doerr and the Wake Audubon Society teamed up with Audubon North Carolina and the City of Raleigh to turns the lights out, so the birds stay on track.

“Because they’re attracted to the light they’re especially attracted to the city lights that we have from light pollution,” Doerr said. “And that puts them in a situation where they’re liable to encounter a building, a window which results in death or serious injury.”

Raleigh is the first major city in North Carolina to shut off the lights to non-essential buildings to help with bird migration.

But since we don’t all live downtown, how can we help?

“All of us can play a part in this because we quite simply can turn our lights out at night.” Doerr explained. “You might have big yard lights out at night which may draw birds in and confuse them.”

The State Audubon agrees going lights out, for a few hours though November will save millions of birds.

“It’s pretty distressing because the solution is fairly simple,” said Curtis Smalling, the director of Conservation at Audubon North Carolina. “We’re never going to bring it to zero, but we can reduce it dramatically.”

Smalling said studies show turning off the lights can stop birds dying by flying into buildings by almost 90 percent.

The Audubon recommends switching to outdoor motion sensor lights if you can or using lights that point down to the ground instead of up toward the sky.

For more on how you can go “Lights Out” go to Wake Audubon or Audubon North Carolina.

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