Laura Schlaikjer: Local ‘Lights Out’ initiative will help migrating birds

A barn swallow 

A barn swallow  FILE PHOTO

Published: 09-06-2023 8:55 PM

I’m sure that most people have seen the iconic photos of the U.S. at night, with all the massive areas of bright light strewn across the country — the eastern half lit up the brightest. On one hand, it’s interesting to see the web of our large and small cities, on the other hand it’s a deathtrap for migrating birds. According to the Audubon website, billions of birds migrate north in the spring and south in the fall, mostly at night, and navigate using the night sky. Passing over areas of bright light, they become disoriented and fatal collisions with buildings result. Over one week in 2017 in Texas, 400 birds were killed by just one 32-story skyscraper.

Audubon’s “Lights Out” program is a national effort to reduce this problem. The side effect being massive energy savings. What can we as individuals do to help? Audubon suggests: Turning off exterior decorative lighting; extinguishing pot and floodlights; substituting strobe lighting where possible; reducing atrium lighting where possible; turning off interior lighting especially on higher stories; substituting task and area lighting for workers staying late or pull window coverings; Down-shielding exterior lighting to eliminate horizontal glare and all light directed upward; installing automatic motion sensors and controls wherever possible; and when converting to new lighting assess quality and quantity of light needed, avoiding over-lighting with newer, brighter technology.

Lights Out Boston was founded in the fall of 2008. More than 45 tall buildings participate, turning off both internal and decorative lights at night. Let’s start a Lights Out in Greenfield for migrating birds this fall. I encourage everyone to participate, and why keep it to one month? Let’s cut energy use year-round and be able to look up and see the beauty and majesty of the stars again. Lights Out!

Laura Schlaikjer


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