Philadelphia is home to some amazing birds. Sparrows, finches, starlings, and swifts can be seen flying high above that city in Pennsylvania. There is even a bird that represents the city’s football team, the Philadelphia Eagles. Many fans cheer “Go Birds!” at games.
Now, the people of Philly are working to protect birds on the move. They are doing that by turning out the lights!
Twice a year, millions of birds fly over the city during their migration across the United States. When the weather gets colder, these feathered creatures travel south to warmer temperatures. Birds also move to find plenty of food and the best places to make nests. When the spring season finally arrives, the flyers begin their long journey back north. They are flying back toward their summer homes now!
While most of us are catching Z’s, many of these birds are wide awake, soaring through the moonlight. Most migratory birds fly at night to enjoy cooler air and avoid predators. But there is another danger for birds at night — crashing into buildings or windows. That’s because birds use light from the Moon and stars to guide their way. Bright lights from cities and skyscrapers can confuse the feathered creatures. Up to a billion birds die from this each year across the United States.
The Lights Out program is a way to protect the birds during their migration. It gets buildings to turn out their lights at night. Philadelphia is taking part for the first time this year. The city is dimming its lights from April 1 to May 31. This program will last throughout spring migration and pick back up in the fall between August and November. Philly will be joining dozens of cities across the country that also participate in the Lights Out program. Those include San Francisco, California; Chicago, Illinois; and New York City.
Bird Safe Philly is an organization working with the Philadelphia community to create safe spaces for birds. It came up with the idea to join the Lights Out program. Brian Quindlen is a volunteer who works with Bird Safe Philly. He explained that last October, “over 1,000 dead birds were found in Philly after a nighttime migration.” Philadelphians knew they had to come up with a plan to save birds in the future.
It’s important to protect bird species because many populations are decreasing. If we continue to lose birds, our whole ecosystem will be affected. “Mother Nature is like the game of Jenga,” Quindlen said. “If you take the pieces out, things become weaker, and eventually, everything falls apart.”
Turning off lights at night will also save energy. A study in Washington, D.C., found that buildings reduced their energy usage by 20% when they flipped the light switch off at night. A Lights Out program will not only protect birds but lead to a greener environment. What a way to feed two birds with one scone!
If kids want to help protect birds, Quindlen said there are many ways to join in. You can help out whether you live in a city or the countryside. Here are three quick, easy fixes to make:
1. At night, dim lights near windows, especially during spring and fall migration months. If you need to keep a light on, just close the curtains!
2. Keep your outside lights pointing downward instead of facing up.
3. Ditch white, red, and yellow lights for blue and green lights, which attract fewer birds.
Updated April 1, 2021, 5:03 P.M. (ET)
By Victoria DeCoster
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