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How to help birds during fall migration by going ‘Lights Out’

You can help millions of migrating birds safely reach their destinations by taking a few simple steps.

A flock of silhouetted birds fly in front of a full moon.

Minimizing “light trespass” can help migratory birds rely on delicately balanced circadian rhythms that regulate many natural instincts.

Photo by Fatih Doğrul

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It’s that time of the year, y’all. Pumpkin spice lattes are in full swing, a few trees have already started their colorful transformation, and bird migration is underway.

An estimated 3.9 million birds fly over Oregon at night every spring and fall. The bright artificial lights of cities — which create a phenomenon called sky glow — can cause traveling birds to become disoriented and crash into buildings or windows.

Enter: Lights Out Portland.

What is Lights Out Portland?

Bird conservation organization Portland Audubon supports the nationwide effort spearheaded by the National Audubon Society. Lights Out is meant to help reduce migratory bird deaths by increasing awareness and encouraging building owners to turn off non-essential lights during peak migration months.

How can I participate?

Portlanders can help the birds in a variety of ways.

  • Turn off non-essential outdoor lights.
  • Aim outdoor lights down toward the ground.
  • Install motion sensors on outside lights to limit their use.
  • Close blinds to reduce light emission to the outdoors.
  • Use warm outdoor lights (less than 3,000 Kelvin).
  • Switch to lighting products that are DarkSky Approved.

You can take the pledge to go Lights Out or contact BirdSafe campaign coordinator Mary Coolidge to learn more. The Energy Trust of Oregon also offers cash incentives to increase the energy efficiency of business lighting.

When is fall migration?

Peak fall migration starts on Tuesday, Sept. 19, and runs through Thursday, Oct. 19. Peak spring migration is April 15-May 19.

Ready to learn more? Join a virtual discussion on Sept. 13, 7-8:30 p.m., with author Rebecca Heisman to hear about the history of bird migration research and why understanding migration is key to bird conservation.

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