Lights Out DC

Collisions with buildings kill more wild birds than any other single human factor besides habitat loss.  In urban areas, the problem gets worse during periods of migration.   Most neo-tropical songbirds migrate at night to avoid turbulence in the air and navigate by the stars.  Passing over cities, they are often attracted to artificial lights and frequently strike windows.  The blow can be fatal, or it can leave the birds injured and vulnerable to predators and street sweepers.

Now in its fourth year, Lights Out DC asks buildings to turn off unnecessary lights at night during critical migration periods. In addition to helping ensure the survival of migratory birds, the program saves energy and money, reduces factors leading to climate change, and lessens light pollution.

To reduce fatal bird/glass collisions Lights Out DC encourages building owners to turn off unnecessary lights between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. during spring and fall migrations.  Lights Out DC volunteers walk a four-mile route in downtown Washington to inspect buildings and collect dead or injured migratory birds that have collided with glass.  Injured birds are monitored and released (if recovered) or taken to City Wildlife’s rehabilitation center if their injuries are more severe. Dead birds are tagged and saved.

Data on the birds found is collected and catalogued on a spreadsheet.  Ultimately, it is used to convince building owners and managers voluntarily to adopt light abatement procedures for the sake of migrating birds.  Simultaneously, City Wildlife has been educating the general public through media and community outreach on the hazards that artificial lighting and glass pose for migrating birds.

Lights Out DC is patterned after highly successful lights-out programs in Chicago, Toronto, Boston, New York City, and Baltimore, to name a few.

If you’d like to join Lights Out DC as a volunteer, please email
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