Night Lights Turned Off to Save Migrating Birds

Birds, like moths, are attracted to light at night and if they become disoriented, will fly in circles around the lights in a tall building, often hitting the building, or dropping exhausted to the ground.

The phenomenon is not understood by scientists, but a researcher at the Bell Museum in Minneapolis, along with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, is spearheading a program to turn off the lights to protect migrating birds.

Participants in the programs, including the owners, tenants, and management companies from 32 buildings Minneapolis, St. Paul, Bloomington, and Rochester, will dim their building lights during the spring and fall bird migration seasons. Similar programs are in place in Toronto, New York, and Chicago.

Adding the Minnesota cities is important, said Bell Museum ornithologist Bob Zink, because they are located along the Mississippi River flyway, a major thoroughfare for migrating birds. In addition to lowering the light in the night migration routes, researchers are also trying to determine why birds fly into some buildings at a much higher rate than others.

In Minneapolis, 67 percent of the bird kills were caused by just two of the city's skyscrapers.

Inside Science News Service is supported by the American Institute of Physics.