Forecast and Analysis

Lights Out in October, the highs and lows of October 3rd- October 9th

Diya Balagopal Guest Authors Oct 09, 2023

In recent days we’ve hit highs and lows for observing bird migration patterns. The largest movement in the contiguous US ever recorded since the beginning of the quantitative era of BirdCast (c. 2018) occurred on the night of 6-7 October 2023; but this followed an enormous tragedy in the Chicago, Illinois area on the night of 4-5 October, 2003 in which many hundreds of birds died in building collisions, including nearly 1,000 birds at a single building.

Birds of all kinds were taking to the skies, continuing their remarkable journeys, and captivating novices, experts, and the uninitiated alike across the nation. On the extraordinary night of 6-7 October 2023, we bore witness to an unprecedented event – more than a billion birds taking flight during their nocturnal migration (1.1834 billion at 10:30pm ET). This staggering number is a testament to the enormous magnitude of bird migration at its peak. Such an event, the magnitude of which had never previously recorded in the BirdCast live migration maps, speaks literal volumes about the abundance, resilience and adaptability of these incredible creatures.

This does not mean that this, and other, flights are without hazards, and serious ones at that. Just one preceding this epic flight night, a major bird-building collision event killed a thousand birds at one building alone in Chicago, with still to be quantified numbers of mortalities at other localities around the region. Stopping these events, and this needless loss of avian life, is well within our grasp: bird-friendly glass and protocols for reducing and eliminating light pollution are readily available for preventing these catastrophes.

Bird collision victims from a Chicago building, 5 October 2023, Field Museum. Photo courtesy of Daryl Coldren.

Now, let’s take a look at the three-day forecast maps for tonight, tomorrow, and the following night, with a specific eye for where and when birds are on the move and where we can go lights out to protect their movements during nocturnal migration.

The forecast predicts the highest migration intensity for 9 October 2023 to be, again, in the Midwest; however, by the 11 October 2023, migration intensity generally declines and is more intense only in more southern locations of Louisiana and Texas.

Here are the Lights Out Alert Maps from CSU AeroEco for the same time frame. For residents in the Midwest and portions of the southwest and southeast USA, we urge you to turn off lights during these nights to support the remarkable migratory birds on the move. And don’t forget to use bird friendly materials if you are not already on any glass and reflective surfaces – it’s never too early to implement these materials to save birds.

As we proceed through the ever-changing landscape of this season’s migration, we invite you to stay tuned throughout October.

Together, we can make a difference for these winged wonders. It starts with a simple act – turning off those lights and letting the skies stay dark for our feathered friends! For more information check out BirdCast’s Lights Out Page and remember to explore bird-friendly solutions for your windows! To find tips on simple ways to prevent bird collisions, take a look at this link from the National Audubon Society. For a deeper understanding about glass collisions make sure to visit this site from the American Bird Conservancy.