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Energy & Environment

Raleigh City Lights Go Out To Protect Songbirds' Migration South

Non-essential city building lights in Raleigh will be shut off each night from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. through the end of November to help with bird migration.

Birding groups and some studies show turning out the lights at night can prevent a large percentage of the window collisions birds encounter on their journeys.

On the way, birds fly over and around big cities like Raleigh and the buildings with bright lights can draw birds downward, into a collision with a window that often turns fatal.

That's especially true in dark, cloudy and overall bad conditions when it's hard to see the right way to go.

One type of bird making the trip south for the winter has a song likely familiar to outdoor walkers in North Carolina — the wood thrush.

Wood thrushes and many other songbirds, go all the way to Central and South America.

Kim Brand with the N.C. Audubon Society said birds often fly at night for the fall migration, and twice as many birds die in the region during the fall compared to the spring.

"Studies estimate up to a billion birds every year in the United State die as a result of window collisions," said Brand, adding that keeping birds safe on their journey is important. "Like so many of our migratory songbirds, we have about half as many wood thrushes as we did 50 years ago."

Brand said Raleigh is the first major city in the state to commit to the "Lights Out" initiative to provide a safe journey for flying friends.

Other cities in the state have partial commitments, and certain businesses and buildings in Charlotte and Winston-Salem are turning lights out at night.

Major cities like Chicago and New York City have similar efforts during heavy migration seasons.

City officials worked with members of the Wake Audubon Society to make the plan a reality. The initiative started last week.

Copyright 2021 North Carolina Public Radio. To see more, visit North Carolina Public Radio.