The lights of Philadelphia may not shine as brightly in the coming weeks as a coalition in the City of Brotherly Love tries to prevent millions of migratory birds that pass by twice a year from crashing into skyscrapers and onto the sidewalk.
Bird Safe Philly announced the Lights Out Philly initiative on Thursday, a voluntary program in which many lights outside and inside buildings are turned off or dimmed at night during the spring and fall.
The problem of artificial lights luring birds to death in the city is not new. “We have specimens in the academy ornithology collection from a massacre that occurred when the lights were first installed on the Philadelphia city hall tower in 1896,” said Jason Weckstein, associate curator of ornithology at the Academy of Natural Sciences. Drexel University.
The coalition, which includes Audubon Mid-Atlantic, the Drexel University Academy of Natural Sciences, the Delaware Valley Ornithology Club and two local Audubon chapters, was formed after the most massive collision event was reported. big city in 70 years last October. Hundreds of dead birds were found around the city.
“Conditions were perfect for heavy migratory flight and imperfect since there was a low ceiling of clouds and rain,” Weckstein said. “That, combined with the bright lights of the city of Philadelphia, was a disaster for many fall migratory birds flying south.”
The birds navigate during migration using celestial signals and when they cannot see the stars on a cloudy night, they are confused by the bright lights of the city, according to experts. Windows pose a problem, according to Weckstein, because birds can see a reflection of trees or the sky.
Scientists estimate that between 365 million and 1 billion birds die each year from collisions with buildings or other outdoor structures in the US And those collisions are affecting some species.
Common yellow throats, white-throated sparrows, gray birds and hornbills are the most common victims in Philadelphia, experts said, and those species are also threatened by the climate crisis and other predators.
“The hornero and the black-throated warbler are among the hundreds of bird species now at the highest risk of extinction in North America due to climate change,” said Keith Russell of Audubon Mid-Atlantic. “But many of these species also face the added threat of colliding with buildings.”
Russell said the Philadelphia initiative had the added benefit of reducing energy use, which could slow the climate crisis.
The Lights Out Philly program runs from April 1 to May 31 and from August 15 to November 15. Property managers and tenants are asked to voluntarily turn off lights between midnight and 6 a.m., especially in the upper levels, lobbies and atriums of a building.
The Philadelphia Building Owners and Managers Association, which represents more than 475 members who own or manage commercial property or provide building services, said the response has been “extremely strong.”
“We have some early adopters and the list is close to 20 buildings, many of which are iconic and highly recognizable members of the Philadelphia skyline,” said the group’s CEO, Kristine Kiphorn.
The National Audubon Society, along with its partners, established the first Lights Out program in 1999 in Chicago. Philadelphia joins 33 other cities, including New York, Boston, Atlanta, and Washington DC.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism