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DEC, OGS: Keep 'Lights Out' to protect migrating birds


Thu, Apr 11th 2024 02:00 pm

State-owned and managed buildings take measures to reduce light, prevent bird collisions

Submitted by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Office of General Services (OGS) today remind New Yorkers to take action to protect migrating birds as they navigate night skies by participating in the “Lights Out” initiative. Joining national and international efforts, state buildings participating in “Lights Out” will keep nonessential outdoor lighting from affecting the ability of birds to migrate successfully throughout New York.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “We all play a role in protecting the environment and wildlife, and the national ‘Lights Out’ initiative is a simple way to help a variety of bird species survive and thrive during the busy migration season. DEC is proud to join our New York state partners to lead by example and take actions to reduce bird collisions.”

OGS Commissioner Jeanette Moy said, “Reducing excessive outdoor lighting is an easy and practical step we can take to minimize one of the many dangerous obstacles birds face during their long, annual migrations. OGS is proud to join with DEC and our other partners in state government to help our avian friends safely navigate to their spring nesting sites and wintering grounds.”

Many species of shorebirds and songbirds rely on constellations to help them navigate to and from their summer breeding grounds through the state. Excessive outdoor lighting, especially in adverse weather conditions, can cause migrating birds to become disoriented, a phenomenon known as fatal light attraction. According to the National Zoological Park and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, fatal light attraction has led to collisions with windows, walls, floodlights, or the ground and the death of an estimated 365 to 988 million birds annually in the U.S. 

“Lights Out” directs state-owned and managed buildings to turn off nonessential outdoor lighting from 11 p.m. to dawn during the spring migration (April 15 through May 31), and also during the peak fall migration (Aug. 15 through Nov. 15). State agencies are also encouraged to draw blinds, when possible, and turn off nonessential indoor lighting during “Lights Out” times. In addition to benefiting migrating birds, “Lights Out” promotes sustainability and provides a cost-savings to the state.

Audubon Connecticut and New York Executive Director Mike Burger said, “Every year, billions of birds migrate north in the spring and south in the fall, and most of them travel at night. Unfortunately, artificial lights and sky glow can confuse them, causing some to collide with windows and walls, while others circle in confusion until exhaustion overcomes them. This migration season, you can help by turning off lights when they're not in use, making sure that outside lights aim down and are well-shielded, closing blinds to reduce light-spill, and building awareness with building owners and managers.”

NYC Audubon Executive Director Jessica Wilson said, “Birds are a critical part of a healthy ecosystem, but bird populations are in steep decline due to threats including climate change, habitat loss, and collisions with buildings. Fortunately, there are easy solutions to collisions including reducing artificial light at night – which also improves human health. When buildings turn off unnecessary lights at night, they help make the environment better for birds and for people."

DEC encourages birding enthusiasts to visit I BIRD NY for more information on where and how to observe birds, upcoming bird walks, a downloadable “Beginner's Guide to Birding” (available in Spanish), information on the annual I BIRD NY Challenge, and additional educational resources. The New York State Birding Trail map is also available at www.ibirdny.org and provides valuable information on each site such as location, available amenities, species likely to be seen, directions, and more. Digital information on the birding trail will be updated periodically, so budding outdoor enthusiasts are encouraged to check back often. 

DEC manages and oversees 5 million acres of public lands and conservation easements, and plays a vital role in both protecting New York’s natural resources and providing opportunities for people to enjoy the outdoors. From fishing on scenic streams, hiking and rock climbing, swimming and boating, birding, and nature study, or simply relaxing in a tent under the stars, there are endless adventures to be found. Visit https://dec.ny.gov/things-to-do, connect with us on Facebook, or follow us on Instagram and X.

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