Saving birds with a switch: NYC launches 'Lights Out' program
By NAHAL TOOSI
Associated Press Writer
September 20, 2005, 3:10 PM EDT
NEW YORK -- City, business and wildlife officials flocked together on Tuesday to promote a new effort to reduce the number of migratory and resident birds that are killed or injured each year by flying into lighted windows of skyscrapers and other buildings.
"Lights Out New York" seeks to have building owners turn off or dim lights that are a fatal attraction for many species that migrate annually along the Atlantic flyway. Scientists say the lights disrupt the birds' navigation systems that rely on visual cues, causing them to crash into windows.
The new program is part of New York City Audubon's Project Safe Flight, which has documented about 4,000 birds killed or injured by building collisions in New York since 1997. Its survey listed about 100 different species as victims, the most common being the white-throated sparrow, the yellowthroat and the dark-eyed junco _ but not the rock dove, the ubiquitous city pigeon.
Three injured birds, including a feisty red-tailed hawk that lost its left eye, were displayed during the news conference.
The appeal is directed at owners of buildings 40 stories or taller, and low buildings along the Hudson and East rivers with extensive glass exteriors. They are asked to turn off nonessential lighting on upper stories of taller buildings and on the exteriors of lower ones, from midnight until daylight in September and October.
"We're really trying to do this in the peak of migration," but it is not limited to that period, said E.J. McAdams, executive director of NYC Audubon. The spring phase of the program will likely start in mid-March and last about two months.
Parks Department Commissioner Adrian Benepe said the development of suburban areas has caused city parks to take on a greater role "as oases ... where birds stop off to find shelter, to drink water and to eat food."
Benepe noted that building owners would also save on energy costs by turning off their lights.
In Chicago, which has a similar program, it's estimated that 10,000 birds are saved each year as a result of dimmer city lighting.
New York real estate officials at the press conference said they expected building owners to cooperate. Nicholas La Porte Jr., executive director of Associated Builders and Owners of Greater New York, called "Lights Out" a "compassionate" cause.