New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that state-owned and state-managed buildings from Buffalo to Gotham and Binghamton to Plattsburg will participate in the Audubon NY Lights Out program. What’s this mean? That unessential outdoor lighting will be shut off from 11:00 p.m. to dawn, from April 15 through May 31, and August 15 through November 15, when songbirds migrate through New York in the dark while traveling to or from their southern wintering grounds.
Light pollution impedes with the birds’ navigation system, so lost or confused migrating birds can collide with buildings, and many just circle around until they finally drop from exhaustion. It is estimated that between 365 million and nearly a billion birds die trying to navigate tall buildings and bright lights.
The obvious solution: turn off the lights.
“This is a simple step to help protect these migrating birds that make their home in New York’s forests, lakes and rivers,” said Cuomo. This is Cuomo’s second action against light pollution: In 2014, he signed a billmandating that outdoor lighting from state buildings must be at least partially shielded and directed downward.
While only 20 buildings will be directly affected by the new mandate, Cuomo hopes the program will encourage other building managers to sign on to Lights Out. Cuomo also added a special page of the State website dedicated to birding, so New Yorkers can learn more about the creatures they’re helping.
The Rockefeller Center, Time Warner Center, and the Chrysler Building already voluntarily participate in the Audubon NYC Lights Out program.
Inspired yet? Here’s a few easy things you can you do to help the migrating birds in your area: Close your blinds at night, or shut your lights off all the way if you leave a room. Use only motion-activated outdoor lighting, and also make a point to choose outdoor lighting that has shielded fixtures. Petition your local government to get on board with the Lights Out program. Super serious about birding? Conservation groups like Audubon often organize population counts and bird migration censuses to study the migration patterns and success rates of different species. These events count and identify migrating birds, survey habitat or band migratory birds, and birders can volunteer to participate in these studies.