Written by Elizabeth Early, Communications-Programs Intern for Keep Texas Beautiful
From March 1st to June 15th, nearly two billion birds will fly through Texas on their migratory paths. When these birds travel through our cities and rural areas, bright artificial lights at night attract and disorient them which can result in fatal collisions.
One way you can help is as simple as turning off your lights at night. Keep Texas Beautiful has partnered with the “Lights Out Texas” Campaign led by Texan by Nature and Audubon Texas that focuses on education, awareness, and action to help protect the billions of migratory birds that fly over Texas annually.
How did “Lights Out Texas” Start?
Lights Out Texas first began in Texas in 2017 through a partnership with Houston Audubon and American National Insurance Company in Galveston following a major bird collision event that killed nearly 400 birds in a single night at American National’s large commercial building.
Building collisions alone are estimated to kill 350 million birds annually, and since one in three birds migrate through Texas each year, this makes Texas cities some of the most hazardous in exposing birds to light pollution.
Why are birds so important?
Birds are an essential part of our ecosystem. As pollinators, birds disperse the seeds of many plants, especially native plants. Birds feed on insects, rodents, and other small animals, which contributes to balance in the food chain. The patterns of birds send signals to researchers about the environment, including the effects of pollution, climate, and weather trends. Birds contribute to our daily lives, and it is crucial that we do our part to protect them. Conservation efforts keep our communities healthy and beautiful.
Birds also support the Texas economy. In the Rio Grande Valley alone, Texas A&M found that nature tourism – which is dominated by bird watching – contributes $300 million to the local economy as well as supports 4,407 full and part-time jobs annually.
What can you do to help?
A 2021 peer-reviewed paper has modeled building collisions to show that reducing lighting during the entire migration season would be an effective way to reduce collisions resulting in a ~60% reduction in collision mortality.
During the current spring migration season, the solution is as easy as flipping a switch. From now until June 11th, we encourage you to turn off as many lights as possible from 11 pm to 6 am. Do not use landscape lighting to light up trees or gardens where birds may be resting. And for your essential lights, close all your blinds to reduce light emission. In addition to turning off your own lights, ask local businesses and municipalities to turn off their building’s lights. If you are a business owner yourself, let your fellow tenants and business owners know why you are choosing to turn your lights off.
If you want to learn more about Lights Out, Texas, go to Texan by Nature’s webpage here. Take the Texan Conservation Alliance pledge to share your commitment for your business or your home here. For live migration updates from BirdCast, find their migration forecast map here.
This month, join us in protecting the two billion birds migrating over our state by flipping the switch, turning off your lights, and encouraging your friends and family to do so, too.