Fall bird migration is at its peak this month and into early November as millions of birds heading south for the winter pass through South Florida.
Because migrating birds generally rest and forage during the day and travel at night using the stars as navigational aids, brightly lit cities impede their night vision, steer them off course, and confuse and disorient them, often causing deadly collisions. Indeed, brightly illuminated homes and commercial buildings are a serious nighttime hazard, with millions of birds lost to building collisions in the U.S. each year.
To lower the mortality rate, Tropical Audubon Society’s Lights Out Miami initiative urges homeowners and building managers to turn off or block nonessential lights from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. through November 15 to protect migratory birds traveling through our region.
“By taking these very simple steps we can all play a role in reducing bird/building collision deaths,” says Tropical Audubon Society Executive Director Paola Ferreira.
The Lights Out Miami initiative is part of a larger 39-city National Audubon-spearheaded effort to help migratory birds arrive alive. To that end, Tropical Audubon Society (TAS) recently launched a “Lights Out Homeowners Pledge,” a Miami-Dade County Bird Collision Monitoring Campaign and is advocating for Bird-Safe Buildings Act federal legislation, which Ferreira urges Miamians to support.
TAS Board member Brian Rapoza adds, “Way too many migrating birds fall victim to brightly lit buildings — which can be disorienting and ultimately deadly.”
He reports that victims in our area this season already include Red-eyed Vireo, Ovenbird and Black-and-white Warbler.
“You can make their journey safer by simply flipping a switch,” he adds. “It’s absolutely crucial that we minimize bright artificial light at night as birds make their way through Miami.”
As part of the Lights Out Miami initiative, TAS encourages county residents to become a bird collision data collection volunteer.
In addition to providing a sampling of the scope of local bird mortality
resulting from building collisions, the collected data will also help
researchers understand which migrating bird species are most likely to collide with buildings in greater Miami, the time of year or time of day when collisions are most likely to occur, and the types of building lights or windows that are most likely to cause collisions.
Here’s how Miamians can help birds survive migration.
If you are a Homeowner:
• Use down-shielded outdoor lighting or limit lighting to ground level
• Turn off floodlights and/or decorative lighting during the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. during peak fall and spring migration periods (August 15 – November 15 and March 15 – May 31)
• Put outdoor lighting on permanent timers and/or motion sensors wherever possible
• Turn off interior lights when leaving a room
• Draw blinds/shades if indoor lighting is required after midnight
• Take the Lights Out Miami Homeowners Pledge If you are a building owner, manager or tenant:
• Use down-shielded exterior lighting or limit lighting to ground level
• Turn off exterior decorative lighting during the hours 11 p.m. and
6 a.m. during peak fall and spring migration periods (August 15 –
November 15 and March 15 – May 31)
• Turn off spot and floodlights
• Substitute strobe lighting where possible
• Reduce lobby and atrium lighting where possible
• Turn off interior lighting, especially on upper floors
• Substitute task and area lighting for building employees working late.