𝘕𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘮𝘣𝘦𝘳 17, 2021
Melissa has a Lark Sparrow that has been showing up at the bay window most mornings throughout the summer. While it seems to be attracted by the feeders, it quickly leaves the food and flies to the bay window that projects into the patio. Since it is morning, the bird is not attracted by the lights. Rather than attacking the reflection in the pane, the bird will hang onto the screen that covers the bottom half of the window. He will stay hanging from the screen for several moments. At times he will flit down to the brick sill below the window, but mostly he just hangs on the screen. It is a puzzle why the bird participates in this activity.
When I checked online, I found birds fly into windows for three reasons. The first is they fly into a reflection of a tree or plant thinking its real. When birds see the reflection of vegetation or they see indoor plants through the glass, they may fly toward at full speed. Second, male birds attack their own reflections to defend their territory. These attacks often occur in spring (breeding season) or fall (with migrating birds). Scientists believe birds attack their reflection in the glass thinking it’s a rival bird. The third reason is when night-migrating birds become disoriented by lighted windows. These birds navigate by starlight and artificial building lights can confuse them and divert their migration patterns. Birds may either collide with the windows or hover around lighted windows until they get exhausted. A single lighted city building can kill thousands of migrating birds in just one night.
Approximately 1 of every 3 birds migrating through the US in spring, and 1 of every 4 birds migrating through the US in the fall (nearly two billion birds) pass through Texas. That means protecting birds in Texas promotes conservation of bird populations across the Americas. Houston Audubon manages a long-running suite of programs to address urban threats to birds, including collisions and lighting. An estimated one billion US bird deaths occur annually from collisions with buildings and structures, with migratory species at most risk. Early data collection efforts began ten years ago in Houston, but a major bird collision event involving 400 birds in Galveston in 2017 resulted in a partnership to save the birds. The effort was aided when Cornell Lab of Ornithology developed their BirdCast migration forecast maps to predict when migrations would occur and identify the greatest risk of collision. During periods of high-risk, Lights Out Action Alerts are released on social media to government officials, businesses, and homeowners encouraging them to participate in Lights Out. The Lights Out for Birds program has grown to encompass cities and corporations throughout the state. This saves birds and electricity.
𝗧𝗵𝗼𝘂𝗴𝗵𝘁𝘀: The Lights Out for Birds program encourages building owners, businesses, developers, and homeowners to help protect migrating birds by turning off all non-essential nighttime lighting on buildings and other structures from 11:00 pm to 6:00 am each night. Birds are not only essential to our planet’s ecology, but also support local economies. Birds provide ecosystem services, act as benchmarks for environmental health, increase livability, and connect people of all ages and abilities to the natural world. In the Rio Grande Valley alone, Texas A&M found that nature tourism (primarily bird watching) contributes $300 million to the economy and supports 4,407 full and part-time jobs annually. It is estimated there are 45 million “birders” in the US, and 16 million of those traveled at least a mile to see birds (ecotourism). That means 18% of all Americans are “birders.” Yet another reason to protect the bird populations. Follow the Science. Change is coming and it starts with you.