Collisions with buildings kill more birds than any other human factor besides habitat loss and domestic cats, and in urban areas, the problem worsens during periods of migration. Researchers estimate that one billion birds die annually due to collisions with glass.
Most neo-tropical songbirds migrate at night to avoid turbulence in the air and they navigate by the stars. Passing over cities, they are often attracted to artificial lights and frequently strike transparent or reflective windows. The blow can be fatal, or it can leave the birds injured and vulnerable to predators and street sweepers.
How can I help be a part of the solution?
It’s easy. It starts by simply turning off lights at night.
Turning off lights not only saves birds, it also saves energy and money, reduces factors that lead to climate change, and lessens light pollution. We recommend turning off or dimming all unnecessary lights between 11:00 p.m. and dawn during periods of bird migration (March 15 to June 1 in the spring, and August 20 to November 10 in the fall). Cooperation on nights of inclement weather, fog, and low clouds is especially helpful, though extinguishing lights every night during migration will save birds. You can close blinds and use task lighting (table and desk lamps) after 11:00 p.m. during high migration time periods, as well.
Other light sources of special concern are:
- Lights behind large expanses of glass
- Floodlights, searchlights and spot lights
- Lights aimed upward or into the sky
- Perimeter and “vanity” lighting
- Lights in glass walkways between buildings
- Red and white lights (blue and green lights seem to be less dangerous to birds)
- Lights that illuminate plants behind windows (birds try to fly into the plants for cover)
Light shields that direct light downward, timers that automatically turn off lights, and motion detectors that turn on lights only when they are needed can all save birds.
Additionally, tape, screens, and films can be applied to any windows to prevent collisions both day and night, all year long. Applying them to the outside of glass reduces both reflectivity and transparency. You can find more information on treating windows to make them safe for birds on the American Bird Conservancy’s website.
If you find a bird that has struck a window and is stunned or injured, place it gently in a small ventilated box or paper bag and keep it somewhere dark, warm and quiet until you can get it to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily you can call City Wildlife at 202-882-1000. After hours, please contact The Humane Rescue Alliance at 202-723-5730 extension 2.