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Partnerships Help the Lights Out Program Expand

i Oct 16, 2023 No Comments by

Article by Connie Sanchez, Bird-friendly Buildings Program Manager, National Audubon

The night sky looks darker–and the future looks brighter–for birds flying through Raleigh, North Carolina. Starting this fall, Kane Realty Corporation, one of Raleigh’s biggest building managers, has committed to participating in the Wake Audubon chapter’s Lights Out Wake initiative. Going forward, during spring and fall migration Kane Realty will turn off unnecessary lights at its commercial buildings and ask its tenants to do the same. This will be crucial for the Wake Audubon chapter’s ongoing work making the city’s night skies safer for migrating birds, and the new collaboration shows how the Lights Out program is growing locally through national partnerships that create new connections on the ground.

“It is really significant that a commercial entity like Kane Realty recognizes that Lights Out will save birds’ lives and save money,” says Wake Audubon Society board member Phil Doerr. “This influence can help us bring more awareness and persuade more commercial interests to join the initiative.”

For volunteer Lena Gallitano, the partnership with Kane Realty is the biggest thing that’s happened to Lights Out Wake since the group launched the program about ten years ago. She says the inspiration for Lights Out Wake came during a walk with a colleague in 2014, when she saw a Common Yellowthroat trapped in a corner and disoriented by artificial light, and placed the tiny masked bird in a safe place to rest before releasing it in her backyard.

“I opened the container and the bird flew out, landed on a branch on one of my flowers, and turned around and looked at me like, ‘Thank you so much for helping me,’” she says.

Soon after, volunteers started surveying buildings during spring and fall migration to track the number of birds killed or injured by collisions. The data helped them determine buildings of concern in order to work with those building managers.

Volunteer Lena Gallitano holds a Common Yellowthroat killed by window collision in Raleigh. Photo:Kim Brand

The new collaboration with Kane Realty was made possible through Audubon’s ongoing work with KPMG LLP, a multinational company that provides audit, tax, and advisory services. Since 2021, KPMG has been promoting Lights Out to owners and managers across their U.S. offices. Audubon’s Lights Out program has been connecting those offices with Audubon chapter leaders and staff engaged in Lights Out efforts. This is already leading to more sustainable and meaningful partnerships that help KPMG offices save energy while saving birds at the same time.

“At KPMG, we believe in protecting our natural environment,” says KPMG Senior Director of Corporate Sustainability Darren McGann. “By engaging our building property managers in the Lights Out program, we’re taking concrete steps to reduce light pollution and protect migratory birds that play a vital role in our ecosystem. We’re proud to be part of this important initiative by the National Audubon Society, and we hope that our example can inspire others to join us in building a more sustainable and responsible future.”

Billions of night-flying migratory birds make their way through cities during spring and fall migration–and many of them are vulnerable to window collisions. Research indicates that in the United States alone, up to one billion birds die from collisions each year after becoming disoriented by bright artificial lights and skyglow. This month, Chicago saw a mass collision event where 1,000 songbirds collided with a single building in one night. To reduce bird-building collisions, the Audubon network has been working with property owners, building managers, and local governments to shut off, shield, or dim all unnecessary lighting during migration seasons.

Lights Out is gaining momentum, with more than 45 cities involved, programs in 18 of the top 20 most-dangerous metropolitan areas for migratory birds, and several state and regional efforts underway. In North Carolina, the city of Raleigh was the first to join the cause, and, with support from Audubon North Carolina, chapters have established programs with other towns and cities, including Matthews, Greensboro, Asheville, Cary, Winston-Salem, and Chapel Hill.

“Lights Out Wake underscores just how much power chapters have to make change in their communities,” says Ben Graham, engagement director at Audubon North Carolina. “They are on the ground, showing up year after year to reach out to local officials and building managers. We’re seeing the momentum really take off.”

The Lights Out Wake team in 2015. Photo: Courtesy of Lena Gallitano

For Doerr, Audubon chapters are “where residents and constituents can speak directly to local leaders and media to educate and advocate for Lights Out.” And according to Gallitano, the group has learned to be persistent with their message each migration season, build relationships with local elected officials, and communicate the value of Lights Out from many perspectives—from conservation to urban nature and energy savings.

“Every city around is trying to save energy,” she says.

Looking to make your home a more bird-friendly space? Wherever possible, you can help reduce collisions by:

  • Turning off exterior decorative lighting
  • Extinguishing pot and flood-lights
  • Turning off interior lighting, especially on higher stories
  • Down-shielding exterior lighting
  • Installing automatic motion sensors and controls
  • Assessing the quality and quantity of light needed, and avoiding over-lighting with newer, brighter technology

Original article posted on the National Audubon web site

The Future of American Goldfinches (and all other life forms) is in our hands!

i Oct 1, 2023 No Comments by

Authored by Phil Doerr

This photo of an American Goldfinch by Bob Oberfelder is a reminder that we must pull out all the stops to stem climate warming! July and August 2023 were the hottest months ever recorded on earth, and 2023 is on track to be hottest year ever. In a few years this stunning male American Goldfinch may no longer be able to nest successfully in North Carolina! The Summers may soon be too hot and dry to allow goldfinch chicks to survive, let alone thrive, as they should!

Male American Goldfinch photo by Bob Oberfelder.

To help out we should consider everything we do in the context of how much fossil fuel we use and what activities we engage in contribute to our carbon footprint, because if the climate change problem is not effectively resolved then all other problems become insignificant. Worried about drinking water and air quality, and the future of our retirement accounts, war and immigration pressures, extremes of heat waves, hurricanes, typhoons, floods, locust plagues, and every other catastrophe? We should be, because each of these and many other events will intensify and become more frequent as the planet warms.

As we do all we can to eliminate fossil fuels from the global economy there are meaningful steps to reduce our short term impacts on wildlife, including all things wild. We’ve looked at some of these options during our year with the American Goldfinch so we know how to provide for local goldfinches, and other wildlife!

But now what? –

We can personally commit to using less of everything, joining “buy Nothing” groups, recycling with purpose, and putting lots of pressure on our leaders, and the large corporations that profit from excess production and marketing of all things plastic.

But Wait, there’s more!

We can convert all or part of our lawn areas to native plant meadows and pollinator gardens (via Doug Tallamy’s Home Grown National Park!) and encourage neighbors to do the same.

We can preserve, (not cut down!) and advocate for every large oak tree in the landscape as they are migrating songbird magnets that support over 600 species of invertebrates birds need!

We can work with public parks (and other lands) managers to help control invasive exotics, be they plants or other life forms and to plant native species, always!

But Wait! – there’s still more!

We can refuse to buy or use bottled water, (carry a personal coffee/water mug/cup)

Encourage fast food outlets to switch to paper service for food/drinks, including straws.

Encourage travel and tourism hoteliers to stop providing single use toiletry containers.

And yes, there’s still more!!

We can convert to all things electric, and insist local utilities provide and encourage energy produced from renewables. And we’ve just scratched surface with our to do lists!

The Elephant in the room is us! We can change this trajectory with lots of work, but we can do it! I expect my 13 year old Australian born granddaughter to visit North Carolina at age 40 and see male American Goldfinches in their brilliant breeding attire! -Just as we do today!

As always, thank you for all you do for the birds.

Phil Doerr, Wake Audubon Board Member, and Volunteer ([email protected])

Please remember during this migration season (Sept 10-Nov 30) we turn off all outdoor lighting from 11pm to 6am to save migrating birds and make their long passages safer. This simple action saves, lives and money while reducing our carbon footprint! Check out “Birdcast.info” daily to keep track of nightly events, as viewed by the real time radar images from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology