A Light Free Zone for Birds

  • Kelly Shen ’23, image from Unsplash.com

One of the many consequences of light pollution is an increase in bird deaths. Artificial light emitted from homes or skyscrapers during the night time can confuse migratory birds, who use the stars and night sky to navigate. When it is cloudy and the stars are hidden, the birds will become disoriented, which leads them to crash into buildings or go off course. Windows also play a role, reflecting light and images of their surroundings. In the morning, hundreds of dead birds line the street, a grim reminder of the effects of light pollution. 

To combat this problem, Bird Safe Philly, an organization in Philadelphia, has announced a new voluntary initiative. The Lights Out Philly initiative encourages Philly residents to dim or turn off internal and external lights to prevent birds from crashing into windows during migration season. The problem is not a new one, as there are still collections of dead birds from when lights were first installed in Philly nearly 125 years ago. Around an estimated 365 million to 1 billion birds are killed each year due to collisions. 

Many common bird species fall victim to artificial lights, such as common yellowthroats, white-throated sparrows, gray catbirds, and ovenbirds, to name a few. On top of having to face the glaring lights, they also face climate change and natural predators. 

The Lights Out Philly initiative will run from April 1st to May 31, for approximately two months. The response is positive, some twenty buildings have already made changes, including prominent skyscrapers that are a part of the Philadelphia skyline. Hopefully other cities will catch on, as we ourselves can make efforts to reduce light pollution. 

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