Philadelphia ‘Lights Out Pledge’ Seeks To Prevent Bird Deaths

Migratory birds are often lured away from their normal paths by the bright lights of cities, with deadly results.

1 minute read

March 19, 2023, 7:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Aerial Philadelphia cityscape by night with the City Hall tower in the foreground and Ben Franklin bridge spanning Delaware river in the back

Mihai_Andritoiu / Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Roughly 100 Philadelphia buildings have signed on to a ‘lights out pledge’ aimed at preventing migratory birds from deviating from their migration paths and striking buildings, reports Bridget Reed Morawski in Next City. The Lights Out Philly program was developed over decades by Keith Russell and Audubon Mid-Atlantic, who tried to draw attention to the issue but had little luck until a massively publicized bird strike event in 2020.

“While light pollution initially draws birds into the city, it’s the combined effect of an abundance of lights and the resulting glare of windows and other reflective glasses that makes it hard to safely navigate — if those surfaces haven’t been modified with bird deterrent films or treatments, that is,” the article explains. “To help reduce migratory bird strikes and deaths, programs in Pittsburgh, Houston and Greensboro, N.C., and other cities across the country have focused on light pollution to encourage residents, businesses and municipalities to shut off their lights during late-night hours during typical spring and fall migration periods.”

These programs seem to have a powerful effect. “According to a 2021 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “decreasing lighted window area [to minimum levels historically recorded] could reduce bird mortality by ∼60%” at a large Chicago building.” 

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