Each spring, neotropical migratory birds leave their winter feeding grounds and fly north to summer breeding sites. Each fall, when the young outgrow their nest and insect populations dwindle, the birds return to warmer climates where food is more abundant. Many of these species migrate at night. And tragically, many of these birds do not complete their journey due to a simple man-made issue: we left the lights on.
Birds migrating at night are attracted to artificial sources of light, particularly during periods of inclement weather. As birds approach the lights of tall buildings, communications towers, lighthouses, floodlit obstacles, and other lit structures, they become vulnerable to collisions with the structures themselves. Even if collisions with these structures are avoided, birds are still vulnerable. “Once inside a beam of light, birds are reluctant to fly out of the lighted area into the dark, and often continue to flap around in the beam of light until they drop to the ground with exhaustion. A secondary threat resulting from their aggregation at lighted structures is their increased vulnerability to predation. The difficulty of finding food once trapped in an urban environment may present an additional threat.” [www.flap.org]
Millions of birds migrate through the Great Lakes every year, using wetlands, forests, shoreline and more than 32,000 islands as stopover sites. Reducing building lighting during migration seasons can drastically reduce the hazard of building collisions. In 2006, the Detroit Audubon Society initiated Safe Passage Great Lakes. In partnership with Michigan Audubon, this program encourages building owners and occupants to turn off lights above the fifth floor, and take other simple steps during the peak migration seasons of mid-March through May and mid-August through October to reduce the danger as migrants pass through. Major cities in our region including Chicago and Toronto, as well as New York City, Washington D.C., Portland, Oregon, and many others, have started similar programs with demonstrated records of success.
There are many ways you can help provide safe passage for migratory birds. Whether you are a building owner, a building tenant, or a homeowner, reducing light pollution especially during spring (March 15-May 31) and fall migration (August 15-October 31) will help our migratory birds.
By pledging to participate in Great Lakes Safe Passage, you are contributing to state-wide bird conservation. Your actions may inspire your neighbors, friends, and colleagues to help as well. As a community, we can make a make a significant difference for the millions of migratory birds that pass through the Great Lakes each year. Thank you for helping the birds!
We consider your pledge to be on-going. Michigan Audubon will send a reminder before spring and fall migration begins. If you represent a business or organization, we will add you to our list of migratory bird supporters.
From the entire Michigan Audubon team, thank you!
Visit the links below to learn more about making your city, town, community, neighborhood, or home safer for our feathered friends.
If you would like to learn more about making your community more bird-friendly, please contact Michigan Audubon conservation science coordinator Rachelle Roake at firstname.lastname@example.org or (517) 580-7364.