Spring Is Time for Lights Out to Protect the Birds

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Spring Is Time for Lights Out to Protect the Birds

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Birds are part of our ecosystem and there are some basic changes buildings can make to help them during migration.


One of our core values is environmental stewardship, which means that we demonstrate genuine care for the environment and the opportunity to change. Through this value, we see the reason to talk about protecting birds. While that may seem oddly specific, there is a need for greater bird awareness right now.

During the spring and fall migration times, many birds pull all-nighters to get to their destinations. We need lights to guide planes that fly at night, but bright lights are bad for birds. Bright lights trespassing from buildings attract birds, which in turn fly into buildings and die, according to Ohio Lights Out. This organization protects birds from flying into buildings during migration seasons, between 365 and 988 million birds per year. These numbers are derived from a study affiliated with the Migratory Bird Center and U.S Fish and Wildlife Service.

Vince Adamus, who volunteers with Ohio Lights Out in Cleveland, has spent many early mornings picking up dead birds off downtown sidewalks. The organization encourages businesses to turn their office lights off at night, helping with the problem. According to Vince, "the solution isn't to avoid glass on buildings, but in addition to dimming/turning off lights, there are films that can be applied to glass that humans can't see but birds can." He also notes that this could eliminate volunteers' need to wake up early and pick up the dead birds.

Although birds do often fly into windows, the most common cause of death for them is exhaustion. The birds become completely disoriented and confused and cannot figure out where to fly, which leads to them exerting far more energy than they would in an unbroken migration. Audubon's Lights Out is an effort being used nationally to encourage buildings to turn off lights when possible. In addition to helping birds, turning off lights saves energy and money.

"The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation."

Every business can benefit from using a lights-out policy. The most apparent reason is saving money on electric bills. This is a no-brainer. In addition to saving money and energy, this is helpful for the environment. Saving millions of birds is not just about doing the right moral thing to protect these specific animals; birds are part of an ecosystem and are tied to many other aspects of the environment.

Green Globes, a sustainable building rating and certification system, also acknowledges the benefit of protecting birds. It includes an optional credit that may help birds. Any projects pursuing a Green Globes certification for new construction should consider design strategies to protect migrating birds. The credit is called "bird collisions" and includes methods such as visual markers and avoidance of reflections by using screens, awnings and overhangs. There is an additional tip that suggests a lights-out policy.

In addition to Green Globes, LEED has a pilot credit called "bird collision deterrence". It involves using design strategies to make a building more visible to birds. Using glass puts birds at higher risk compared to another opaque surface.

Lights Out! Save the Birds!

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