It’s Autumn! And with that, as all birders know, is Fall migration.
Fall migration actually is already mid-way through. Birds start migrating as early as late August/early September. But right about now is when I start hearing and seeing flocks overhead, so it really feels like migration is happening. And when out and about birdwatching, this is always a good time to see species passing through.
With Fall migration also comes Portland Lights Out.
Portland has recently implemented this new Lights Out program. Many other cities around the nation already have these programs in place. The goal is for home owners, building owners, and businesses to turn off unnecessary night-time lighting during both Spring and Fall migration periods. The purpose is two-fold. For one, energy conservation, not running all that electricity all night unnecessarily. Secondly, and more importantly, is to keep a dark environment over cities so that migrating birds do not get confused during migration, potentially causing injuries or death.
Millions of birds die each year across the United States by flying into windows during migration. Many birds migrate at night and rely on the stars and moon to guide their way. Unnatural lighting from cities draw birds down from their flight path. They follow the lights. When buildings are lit up, birds will fly right into the building.
Large cities with huge highrises such as New York City and Chicago face thousands of bird deaths around their buildings. Portland’s highrises are much lower and much fewer than these larger cities, so our bird deaths are much lower.
I’ve participated in Portland Audubon’s Bird Safe Program, collecting data on what Portland’s window strike problem is. Since it is a new program, the first step is data collection. We are trying to determine which buildings are problem areas and how many deaths or injuries we can identify. Each spring and fall, we go out early in the morning to scour the grounds of suspected problem areas, collecting any birds we find and documenting information.
In encourage everyone to do what they can to reduce night time lighting in their home or business.