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Save the birds, turn off your lights

Save the birds, turn off your lights

One morning in May 2017, 400 dead birds lying on the plaza of Galveston’s American National Insurance building greeted employees. Warblers, grosbeaks, and passerines flew into the floodlights and crashed into the 32-story building’s windows. Only three birds survived and were assisted by the Galveston Bay Injured Bird Response Team, run by Audubon Texas and other coastal conservation groups. 

Since then, American National and other businesses have worked with the Houston Audubon and Galveston County Audubon Group to implement preventive measures to create safe passage for birds during migration. The good news is that you can help save the birds during fall and spring migration, too, with some easy steps! 

Every fall, nearly 2 billion birds migrate south through Texas, most flying at night. By turning off your excess lighting during migration, you can help provide safe passage for these birds as they travel to their summer homes.

Here are some easy things you can do to save the birds: (Source: Birdcast):

  • Turn off all non-essential lights from 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. each night during migration season.
  • Do not use landscape lighting to light up trees or gardens where birds may be resting.
  • For essential lights (like security lighting), use the following lighting practices:
    • Aim lights down
    • Use lighting shields to direct light downwards and to avoid light shining into the sky or trees
    • Use motion detectors and sensors, so lights are only on when you need them 
    • Close blinds at night to reduce the amount of light from windows
  • Share your success on social media and with the press, your commitment to go lights out to save birds is newsworthy!

Guidelines for buildings taller than three stories (Source: Birdcast)

  • Extinguish or dim: Exterior and decorative lighting (i.e., spotlights, logos, clock faces, greenhouses, and antenna lighting); lobby/atrium lighting; and lighting in perimeter rooms on all building levels.
  • Avoid Floodlights; illuminating interior plants or fountains and unoccupied floors; scheduling cleaning crews after dark, and blue-rich white light emissions (lighting with a color temperature of over 3000 Kelvin).
  • Use: Desk lamps or task lighting rather than overhead lights; blinking lighting instead of continuously burning lights; and warm light sources (less than 3000 Kelvin) for outdoor lighting.
  • Explain the policy to staff which saves both birds and money.
  • Designate staff members who’ll be responsible for turning off lights. 

BirdCast provides live and local bird migration alerts throughout the continental US, as detected by radar. You can use this tool to check if birds are migrating in your area tonight in low, medium, or high densities. Current designated Bird Cities on the Upper Texas Coast are Galveston and Surfside. Other locations can use the local bird migration alert. Remember, by turning out all non-essential lights outside and inside from 11 PM – 6 AM during Peak Fall Migration from September 5 thru October 29 you’ll be creating a safe flight path for billions of birds!

To learn more, visit Lights Out Texas, a campaign of education, awareness, and action that focuses on turning out lights at night during the spring and fall migrations to help protect the billions of migratory birds flying over Texas annually. 

Search the Things to Do section of our website for suggestions on the best places for birding on the Upper Texas Coast. 

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