Lights Out Pittsburgh program helping migrating birds continues this spring

A program encouraging owners of businesses and homes to turn off lights during peak migration hours is set to continue.

The Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s BirdSafe Pittsburgh program has announced the Spring 2022 Lights Out Pittsburgh campaign.

Its purpose is to reduce bird collisions with windows and the disorientation caused by artificial light in the night sky.

More than 100,000 birds pass over the Pittsburgh region each year during fall and spring migrations, according to BirdSafe Pittsburgh. The group’s research shows that window collisions and disorientation caused by bright lights are the leading causes of bird fatalities.

Many species of birds are attracted to the lights of tall buildings. Millions are killed each year in collisions with those concrete and steel edifices.

Lights Out Pittsburgh is seeking to build on the success of its fall campaign that managed to get 75 building owners to join the movement.

Owners of homes and businesses are being urged to turn off as much internal and external building light as possible, especially in upper floors and lobbies, between midnight and 6 am from March 15 to May 31.

“Bringing a Lights Out program to Pittsburgh last fall culminated in a longtime professional goal,” said Jonathan Rice, urban bird conservation coordinator at Carnegie Museum of Natural History and manager of BirdSafe Pittsburgh. “Now it’s time to build on that.

“Eight years of research has shown us where birds collide in our city,” he said. “This Lights Out program is the first step in making Pittsburgh a safer place for birds stopping over during migration, or who live here year-round.”

National Aviary ornithologist Robert Mulvihill said birds waste energy simply by coming to the lights and may even divert off their migratory path.

“The 9/11 tribute lights (in New York) have shown, using radar, that the thousands of birds that swirl around in those lights have come from (up to) 100 or more miles away, that they’ve deviated from their path to reach that light.”

Volunteers with BirdSafe Pittsburgh have been conducting monitoring in the Downtown area during migratory seasons, collecting data to document bird fatalities, and to provide care for birds with injuries sustained from window collisions.

“I am proud that BNY Mellon initiated this movement in the city of Pittsburgh,” said Christina Bencho of BNY Mellon. “As one of the largest building owners in the city, this is a topic we felt passionate about moving forward.”

Paul Guggenheimer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-226-7706 or pguggenheimer@triblive.com.

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