Pittsburgh Lights Out For Birds

Pittsburgh at night in 2016 (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

22 September 2021

Each year up to 1 billion birds die by hitting windows in the U.S. The problem is especially acute during spring and fall migration when thousands of birds pass through North American cities in the dark and are fatally attracted to city lights. This month a coalition of Pittsburgh’s business and conservation organizations joined Audubon’s Lights Out program to protect birds migrating through our area.

Pittsburgh looks beautiful with all the lights on but that beauty is dangerous to migrating birds. Songbirds use celestial light to navigate and are lured by artificial lights, become confused and circle them. Some immediately crash into buildings. Others land in the city and try to leave after dawn but they mistake the reflections of trees and sky for the real thing and fly headfirst into glass and windows. Some are stunned. Half to 3/4 of them die. Warblers and thrushes are especially vulnerable.

Window-killed migratory thrush, Portland, OR, October 2013 (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

This month six Pittsburgh organizations formed a partnership to save the birds: Building Owners and Managers Association of Pittsburgh (BOMA), BNY Mellon, BirdSafe Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, and the National Aviary.

partner logos

The National Aviary explains how it works:

Lights Out is a voluntary program that encourages building owners and tenants to turn off as much internal and external building lighting as possible at night, particularly lights on upper floors and lobbies.

The first Lights Out Pittsburgh launched 1 September 2021 with participating buildings BNY Mellon, Carnegie Science Center, Eleven Stanwix, House Building, Law & Finance Building, Point Park University, Union Trust Building, United Steelworkers’ Building, 100 Ross, 20 Stanwix, 600 Waterfront and others turning off unnecessary lighting from midnight to 6 a.m. The initiative runs through November 15. Businesses and households can take the pledge to turn their lights out at any point during the migration season.  

National Aviary: Pittsburgh Joins Lights Out Program to Protect Migratory Birds

BirdSafe Pittsburgh is currently gathering volunteers to document bird fatalities and rescue injured birds. The resulting data will track the progress made by the Lights Out initiative. You can help by visiting birdsafepgh.org to sign up.

How well is Pittsburgh doing just three weeks into the program? We have a long way to go but we are already on our way. This webcam snapshot from Discover The Burgh on this rainy 22 September shows that the BNY Mellon building is dark but not UPMC, Gulf, Koppers, Highmark, PPG and many many more.

Screenshot of Pittsburgh skyline from discovertheburgh.com webcam, 22 Sep 2021, 5:10am

Learn more about Pittsburgh’s Lights Out Initiative at the National Aviary’s press release and at BirdSafe Pittsburgh’s Lights Out webpage.

Check out Pittsburgh’s skyline at any time of day and learn about Pittsburgh’s attractions and favorite spots at Discover the Burgh.

p.s. If you have any contacts at Downtown buildings, tell them about the Lights Out program.

(photos from Wikimedia Commons, logos from BirdSafePgh Lights Out Pittsburgh, screenshot from Discover the Burgh; click on the captions to see the originals)

One thought on “Pittsburgh Lights Out For Birds

  1. This is great. It broke my heart reading about all of the dead birds around the world trade center memorial in New York recently.

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