Urban light creates a fatal attraction and disorients migrating birds, which often fly around until exhausted and drop to the ground. Or they may strike a building or window. To prevent these needless deaths, the city of Toronto has created a "Lights Out Toronto" program. Lights go out in city-owned buildings after work and on weekends. And their Bird-Friendly Development Guidelines offer common-sense lighting practices for managing a tall building or a ground-level home. Learn more about Toronto's program. And don't miss this look at light pollution across the continent.
Lights Out Toronto – Saving Birds
Written by Chris Peterson
This is BirdNote!
[Selection from Respighi’s The Birds: Dove]
With fall migration under way, millions of birds – including warblers, sparrows, thrushes, flickers are on the move. Why, when they appear to have such good vision, do hundreds of thousands of birds collide with buildings, at night, particularly during migration?
First, birds don’t see the way we do. Their forward vision isn’t high-resolution. They save that for their lateral sight. After all, better to be aware of a predator coming up from the side or the rear. And birds in flight may not predict that the airspace ahead is cluttered. They’re looking down or to the side, or to the stars, for cues to find their way.1
[Continue with music]
Urban light creates a fatal attraction. “…the light emitted from urban areas disorients migrating birds and draws them into brightly lit downtown areas… Disoriented birds will often fly around until exhausted and drop to the ground, or they may strike a building or window…” 2
To prevent the needless deaths of migrating birds, the city of Toronto has taken the lead with its “Lights Out Toronto” program. Lights go out in city-owned buildings after work and on weekends. And their Bird-Friendly Development Guidelines offer common-sense lighting practices for anyone managing a tall building or a ground-level home. Way to go Toronto! [Call of an Ovenbird]
You’ll find a link to “Lights Out” on our website, birdnote.org.
Musical selection from Respighi’s The Pines of Rome: The Birds: Suite For Orchestra, “The Dove” performed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra; Telarc 1985.
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Call of the Ovenbird 10632 recorded by R.C. Stein.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2011 Tune In to Nature.org October 2011 Narrator: Michael Stein
1 MARTIN, G. R. (2011), Understanding bird collisions with man-made objects: a sensory ecology approach. Ibis, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1474-919X.2011.01117.x/pdf
2 Bird-Friendly Development Guidelines p. 9