Millions of birds are moving through Colorado, and they need dark skies.
Fort Collins, Colo. (August 30, 2021)—Over the next two nights, 9.5 million birds are expected to migrate south over Colorado, according to the CSU Aeroeco Lab. Although it may still be summer to people, it’s not to birds. Fall migration is underway and the peak is expected to occur over the next month. During this spectacular and perilous journey, birds need a simple favor. They need us to turn off our lights.
To take advantage of calmer air and protection from predators, most birds migrate at night. To navigate, they rely on cues in the night sky. Artificial light—ever increasing with Colorado’s population—poses a serious threat to migratory birds. “Outdoor lights attract and disorient birds. Some birds collide with buildings, while others exhaust themselves in confusion,” said Zach Hutchinson, community science coordinator for Audubon Rockies. Building collisions kill millions of birds each year, and light pollution is an important contributor.
To bring attention to this issue, Audubon Rockies, the Colorado chapter of the International Dark-sky Association, and Denver Audubon teamed up last spring to launch Lights Out Colorado, a program that aims to help Coloradans save millions of migrating birds.
“The good news is that it’s very easy to do your part. Simply turning off or shielding your outdoor lights during migration can save birds’ lives,” said Suzy Hiskey, conservation coordinator for Denver Audubon. To maximize their impact, Coloradans should turn off their lights as early in the evening as possible during September.
Lights Out Colorado provides two simple steps people can take to have a big impact on birds:
- Shield outdoor lights to prevent light from being emitted upwards.
- Turn off lights by midnight during bird migration seasons (April-May and August-September).
“In addition to helping birds, reducing light pollution has the benefits of lowering energy usage, saving money, and preserving night skies for everyone,” said Richard O’Brien, International Dark-sky Association Colorado chapter member. To learn how to help birds in their communities, Colorado residents should visit the Lights out Colorado website, where they can pledge to help migratory birds.
Audubon Rockies is the regional office of the National Audubon Society for Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah. The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon Rockies serves more than 37,000 members in Colorado. Learn more at rockies.audubon.org and by following us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @audubonrockies.
About the International Dark-sky Association
The Colorado chapter of the International Dark-sky Association (IDA) works to protect the night skies for present and future generations. Key activities of the IDA are education about light pollution, recommendations for outdoor lighting, the IDA Fixture Seal of Approval, and the Dark Sky Places program. The IDA teaches about light pollution in 51 countries on six continents. The IDA’s recommended best practices for outdoor lighting have become a standard worldwide. The IDA Fixture Seal of Approval has been awarded to over 1000 lighting fixtures. The IDA has officially recognized 133 International Dark Sky Places, including dark-sky communities, Urban Night Sky Places, dark-sky parks, dark-sky reserves, and dark-sky sanctuaries, ensuring ongoing conservation efforts in these special places. The Colorado chapter focuses on local efforts, including the conservation work of Colorado Dark Sky Places and supporting lighting ordinances in local governments throughout the state.
About Denver Audubon
Denver Audubon is an independent chapter of the National Audubon Society serving seven counties of the Denver metro area. The chapter’s mission is to inspire actions that protect birds, other wildlife, and their habitats through education, conservation, and research. Founded in 1969, Denver Audubon offers introductory to advanced educational programs on bird identification and conservation, including birding field trips, school programs, workshops, and year-long courses. The chapter helps individuals and organizations learn about and implement bird-friendly practices.