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Raleigh joins nationwide effort to ensure safe bird migration: Lights Out For Birds

Migrating starling birds
A flock of common starling birds Sturnus vulgaris migration in flight above a meadow

This fall, the City of Raleigh is participating in a nationwide initiative aimed at providing safe passage to millions of migrating birds. The initiative is called Lights Out, and it urges business and home owners to turn off unnecessary lights during the spring and fall bird migrations. Migrating birds mainly fly at night, and as they pass over large cities they can get disoriented by bright lights. This unfortunately can lead to birds striking buildings, or becoming so disoriented that they exhaust themselves and are left vulnerable to other threats.

Raleigh lies in the Atlantic Flyway, which means birds such as Warblers, Vireos, Sparrows, Hummingbirds, and many more migrate over the area in the spring and fall. The City of Raleigh will dim all non-essential lighting between now and November 30th, from 11pm-6am.

In 1991, Toronto was the worlds first city to address urban bird collisions. Chicago followed suit ten years later and since then, the movement to protect migrating birds has spread to over 45 metro areas in North America. The City of Raleigh was the first city in North Carolina to participate, partnering with Wake Audubon Society in 2015.

Although not widely reported, mass deaths due to bright lights have happened as recently as September 13th. Urban light pollution coupled with poor weather caused a mass death situation in Manhattan. The City of Raleigh is hopeful that by working together to create safe passage for the birds, events like this are prevented locally.

"The efforts we put forth have paid off," says Oscar Carmona, Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Director for the City of Raleigh. "We have not seen any bird strikes close to the magnitude of what happened in Manhattan a few weeks ago. There is always going to be a number of strikes, but through the Lights Out effort, our goal is to keep these to a minimum by providing a safe passage to these migrating birds by reducing the amount of light that disorients them during their journeys north and south."

To keep up to date on the North Carolina bird migration, check the BirdCast Migration Forecast. The Dr. Bird Cast Twitter account posts updates and facts about bird migration. Audubon North Carolina has more information on the history of Lights Out, the conservation and education efforts they participate in, and how you can get involved in your community.