Lights Out Texas

Flight Plan: Turn Off Lights for Migratory Birds

Take the pledge to go Lights Out, Texas!

Austin, TX & Ithaca, NY– About one in four birds migrating through the United States passes through Texas each fall. The birds are on the move right now, and this seasonal marvel will last through the end of November. That means it's also time for Texans to make the trip safer for birds by participating in the Lights Out Texas movement. Within the broader migration period is "peak migration." In Texas, that occurs between September 5 and October 29 this year. This is the period when 50% or more of all the birds that will be migrating over Texas are on the move.

Audubon Texas, in collaboration with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Audubon state chapters, the BirdCast migration forecast program, and local partners, is calling on Texans to to turn off as many interior and exterior lights as possible from 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. in rural, residential, and commercial areas to reduce the glow of light during the peak migration period. It is also important that all nonessential and decorative lighting near the tops of buildings be turned off during the peak period. 

According to Lisa Gonzalez, Vice President and Executive Director of Audubon Texas, "Birds play an important role within ecosystems and face many threats during their migratory travels. Specifically, birds are attracted to and disoriented by the light emitted from commercial and residential structures, bringing them directly and indirectly into harm’s way. Each year up to an estimated one billion birds are estimated to die due to collisions with buildings in the United States alone. Audubon Texas is honored to coordinate the Lights Out Texas collaboration, working with partners and communities across the state to protect traveling birds, while also conserving energy and saving money in the process." 

Lights Out Texas partners are asking community members to make a pledge to protect birds both at work and at home to reduce the number of bird fatalities across the state. Last fall migration season, the Texas Conservation Alliance's Lights Out for Wildlife Certification received 237 pledges (85% residential and 15% commercial) and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology received 405 pledges through its BirdCast website which uses weather radar to predict migration traffic up to three days in advance. BirdCast also issues Migration Alerts for places where migratory bird density will be highest. Most major cities in Texas have issued Lights Out proclamations, and the goal this fall is to continue increasing the number of pledges, city proclamations, long term resolutions, and city proclamations to go Lights Out. 

"Since 1970, North America has lost nearly 1 in 4 of its birds, and unfortunately collisions play a large part in that decline," said Julia Wang, BirdCast Project Leader at Cornell Lab of Ornithology. "It's important that we make windows safer, day and night. In addition to applying visible patterns to the outside of glass, turning out lights is an easy way to protect birds–especially during periods of high bird traffic such as peak migration. Lights Out Texas has been an amazing opportunity to watch Texans come together to lead the protection of their wildlife, and it is so important for our birds that we continue to grow the momentum of this movement."

Learn more about best practices and find materials to share efforts on social media by visiting the Lights Out Texas website. We are grateful for the support of our partners and those who have taken Lights Out pledges as we kick off this fall migration season, and continue to encourage every Texan, business, and local government to participate in this campaign. Although birds migrate seasonally, Lights Out is a year-round effort and we invite you to keep supporting bird conservation after fall migration season ends. 

Lights Out Guidelines everyone can use: 

  • Turn off all non-essential lights from 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. each night during migration season.
  • Do not use landscape lighting to light up trees or gardens where birds may be resting.
  • For essential lights (such as security lighting) use the following dark skies-friendly lighting practices:
    • Aim lights down
    • Use lighting shields to direct light downwards and to avoid light shining into the sky or trees
    • Use motion detectors and sensors so lights are only on when you need them
    • Close blinds at night to reduce the amount of light being emitted from windows
    • Share your success on social media and with the press. Your commitment to go "lights out" to save birds is newsworthy.
  • Sign up for Migration Alerts from BirdCast and then visit the Migration Dashboard to see how many birds are migrating over your county on any given night.                 

How you can help, right now