Lights Out Texas – Save energy, see stars, and save birds

Weather
Western meadowlark, rocky mountain arsenal wildlife refuge, western meadowlark

FILE – This April 14, 2019 file photo shows a western meadowlark in the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Commerce City, Colo. According to a study released on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, North America’s skies are lonelier and quieter as nearly 3 billion fewer wild birds soar in the air than in 1970. Some of the most common and recognizable birds are taking the biggest hits, even though they are not near disappearing yet. The population of eastern meadowlarks has shriveled by more than three-quarters with the western meadowlark nearly as hard hit. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – The changing of seasons is an exciting time.

From different weather patterns setting in, to celebrating different holidays and events, change is promised with the turning seasons. Fall and spring also bring location changes, specifically for birds. In the fall, billions of birds migrate through the United States to find warmer weather, mostly under the cover of night. Their journey would be simple if it weren’t for one thing – lights. Light pollution is a major threat to these traveling species, but there are ways we can help.

Around 80% of birds migrate at night. While flying, light attracts and disorients migrating birds. This confuses them and makes them very vulnerable to building collisions. Lights also brings birds in close proximity to areas where they could experience other life threatening hazards, such as cats and other toxins. An estimated 365-988 million birds die due to collisions with buildings each year. Just last week, there was a mass mortality event in Manhattan due to urban light pollution. A good number of these birds are species of high conservation concern. Texas in particular, is very important for migratory birds. On average, about 1-2 million birds pass through Texas on their migratory path.

Lights Out Texas is a partnership with BirdCast at Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Colorado State University with Houston Audubon, the Houston Zoo, the Dallas Zoo, and the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. BirdCast provides real-time predictions of bird migrations, when and where they migrate, and how far they will be flying. With these predictions and some Texas cities ready and willing to turn off their lights, thousands of bird lives can be saved. Experts with the Lights Out Texas campaign say the fall migratory period began August 15, 2021, but early September into late October are the months that fall under a “critical peak migration period”. This is when migration activity is highest, and birds are at the greatest risk of injury or even death.

The solution is simple – turn off or dim non-essential lighting from 11 PM until 6 AM during the critical migration periods. These non-essential lights include lobby or atrium lights, interior home lights, and decorative landscaping lights. Even just closing your blinds to prevent light from escaping can help. This dramatically reduces hazards, and allows birds to safely proceed with their migratory journeys.

And this simple flip of a switch doesn’t only save birds, it saves energy and money! Energy is one of the largest operating expenses for commercial buildings, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Turning off lights and reducing energy use makes environmental and fiscal sense.

To learn more about the Lights Out Texas campaign, visit https://birdcast.info/science-to-action/lights-out/. And to see the latest bird migration maps and migration forecasts visit https://birdcast.info/migration-tools/live-migration-maps/.

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