Lights Out Frequently Asked Questions:
Why is protecting birds important?
The natural world around us is shaped by many factors, including birds. We admire birds for their beauty, songs, and amazing ability to fly, but they’re also important to a functioning ecosystem. Birds convey signals about the world around us, such as different types of land use and the effects of pollution, climate and weather trends. They keep insects and other pests in check, and they impact our food and drink, our health, and our wallets. The research in this document, “The Shared Outcomes for Birds and People: Relevancy Toolkit 2.0” from the American Bird Conservation Initiative offers a few examples of how humans and birds need each other, and how protecting what’s good for people is good for birds, and vice versa.
Which lights should I turn off or dim?
Please turn off as many lights as possible in rural, residential, and commercial buildings as we are interested in reducing overall light emission. However, all nonessential and decorative lighting near the tops of buildings should be prioritized to turn off. Our pilot campaign Lights Out Texas endorses these guidelines from our partners in Chicago, New York, and other cities in North America:
Guidelines for EVERYONE:
- Turn off all non-essential lights from 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. each night during migration season.
- Do not use landscape lighting to light up trees or gardens where birds may be resting.
- For essential lights (like security lighting) use the following dark skies friendly lighting practices:
- Aim lights down
- Use lighting shields to direct light downwards and to avoid light shining into the sky or trees
- Use motion detectors and sensors so lights are only on when you need them
- Close blinds at night to reduce the amount of light being emitted from windows
- Share your success on social media and with the press, your commitment to go lights out to save birds is newsworthy.
Additional Guidelines for Buildings Taller Than 3 Stories:
- Extinguish or dim: Exterior and decorative lighting (i.e. spotlights, logos, clock faces, greenhouses, and antenna lighting); lobby/atrium lighting; and lighting in perimeter rooms on all levels of the building.
- Avoid: Floodlights; illuminating interior plants or fountains, and unoccupied floors; scheduling cleaning crews after dark; and blue-rich white light emissions (lighting with a color temperature of over 3000 Kelvin).
- Use: Desk lamps or task lighting rather than overhead lights; blinking lighting in place of continuously burning lights; and warm light sources (less than 3000 Kelvin) for outdoor lighting.
Isn’t it unsafe to reduce lighting?
Most buildings are vastly over-lit: only decorative and unnecessary lighting are the primary sources of light to be turned off. Lights that are legally required for building, public and aviation safety must be kept on. Additionally, research has linked reduced light pollution with health and wellness benefits like decreased disruption of sleep and circadian rhythms (for example, these studies – 1, 2, 3).
How else can buildings be bird friendly?
Light pollution isn’t the only threat to birds. Birds don’t understand the concept of glass as an invisible barrier that can also be a mirror. They take what they see literally: Glass appears habitat they can fly into, whether that habitat is reflected or visible through glass. The American Bird Conservancy has developed a suite of resources to reduce glass collisions by creating bird friendly buildings. Check out the resources here.
Are there recognition opportunities for participating in Lights Out? How do I share Lights Out efforts?
- Take Texas Conservation Alliance’s Light Out for Wildlife Certification pledge to show your commitment to go Lights Out!
- On social media and if you’re a business, on your website: Share your success and influence others to make a positive change for wildlife and energy efficiency – check out this social media toolkit that includes easy copy/paste templates.
- If you’re a business, in the press: Tell a reporter! As a leading establishment in your community, your commitment to go lights out to save birds is newsworthy. Push the news out to local and regional media channels.
- If a company is seeking a deeper level of recognition, via a write-up, Texan by Nature can recognize companies through their Texan by Nature Certification program. Certified projects are highlighted on TxN website via a mini case study webpage and on TxN social media channels, newsletter, etc.
If I’m a building owner or a business, how can I engage employees and building tenants in Lights Out?
- Motivate and inform your staff and tenants
- Explain that adopting this new practice is a win-win; saving both birds and money.
- Clearly identify what lights need to be turned out, and how to go about shutting them off.
- Designate staff member(s) responsible for turning off lights and make sure they know when to do so.
- Place messaging around your establishment to help your tenants understand why you decided to turn lights out during migration season – check out this social media toolkit that includes easy copy/paste templates.
How do I know when birds are migrating through my area?
BirdCast, a Cornell Lab of Ornithology department, develops and maintains tools that predict and monitor bird migration. These include forecast bird migration maps that predict where and when bird migration will occur, live bird migration maps that show where migration is occurring in real-time, and migration alerts to which one can subscribe to learn when bird migration will occur. Data from weather surveillance radar are essential for developing and maintaining these tools.
- Subscribe to BirdCast Alerts – for now, alerts are only for Bird Cities in TX
- For all other cities, you can enter your city here to see the migration forecast
- You can access all migration tools and live maps here
Are there Lights Out Volunteer Opportunities?
Each spring and fall volunteers from conservation organizations, scientific and higher education institutions conduct bird collision monitoring efforts and collect bird collision mortalities to better understand bird migration dynamics, what is causing the collisions, and what species are most impacted.
For the statewide effort, Light Out Texas, collaborators and partners created bird collision monitoring guides and training for organizations wanting to lead volunteer efforts in their city:
- Master Volunteer Coordinator Guide
- Volunteer Protocol Training Recording
- Proper Data and Specimen Collection Training Recording
- iNaturalist Training Recording
IMPORTANT: only conduct volunteer efforts for bird collision monitoring with an organization that is leading efforts in your area.
What groups coordinate Lights Out efforts across the U.S.?
Many groups coordinate Lights Out efforts across the U.S. – check out a list here.