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‘Lights Out New York Initiative’ To Protect Migratory Birds

Posted on the Hudson Valley News Network, April 27, 2015 by Kathy Welsh 

Albany, NY – Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that state buildings will participate in the New York State Lights Out Initiative, joining the Audubon Society in the charge to reduce sources of light pollution that disrupt and disorient birds during migration. State-owned and managed buildings will turn off non-essential outdoor lighting from 11:00 p.m. to dawn during the times of peak bird migration: from April 15 through May 31 and August 15 through November 15. The Governor also launched the new I Love NY Birding website, which will provide visitors with information on bird watching and how to participate in the Lights Out initiative, among other tools.

“This is a simple step to help protect these migrating birds that make their home in New York’s forests, lakes and rivers,” Governor Cuomo said. “I encourage anyone interested in learning more about New York’s birds and their migrations to visit the new I Love NY Birding website.”

Many species of shore birds and songbirds rely on constellations to help them navigate to and from their summer breeding grounds throughout the state. Excessive outdoor lighting, especially in adverse weather conditions, can cause these migrating birds to become disoriented, a phenomenon known as fatal light attraction. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture this phenomenon has led to the death of an estimated 500 million to a billion birds annually in the United States through collisions with windows, walls, floodlights or the ground.

Barn Swallow. Courtesy of US Fish & Wildlife Service

By adopting Audubon Society’s Lights Out program, the state is joining with a number of iconic New York properties that were enlisted by New York City Audubon such as Rockefeller Center, the Chrysler Building and the Time Warner Center to minimize factors that can lead to fatal light attraction. As part of this initiative, state agencies will also be encouraged to draw blinds-when possible and turn off non-essential indoor lighting during Lights Out times.

Additionally, as part of a greater statewide effort to promote New York’s great outdoors and make access to outdoor recreation information more available, the Governor launched the I Love New York Birding website (http://www.iloveny.com/birding), an online resource to learn more about bird watching and to discover premier birding destinations throughout New York State. The website features a destination search tool, state birding events, tips and guides for a successful birding trip. It also provides resources such as birding checklists, citizen science monitoring, atlases and online tools (apps). Visitors to the webpage will also find tips on what to do if an injured or orphaned bird is found, how to fish responsibly, how to make gardens bird-friendly, and information on how you can participate in Lights Out New York.

Executive Director of Audubon New York Erin Crotty said, “Audubon commends Governor Cuomo for his leadership in launching these new initiatives to protect migrating birds and showcase the spectacular bird watching opportunities throughout New York. Bird migration is one of the incalculable wonders of nature. With spring migration underway, the State’s commitment to ‘Lights Out’ is an important step to increase their protection. The I Love New York birding website is an important tool to support the economic activity of bird watchers. We look forward to continuing to work with Governor Cuomo and his administration to advance these and other critical conservation measures.”

“Many bird species migrate or hunt at night and lighting at night can negatively impact their instinctive behaviors,” said Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens. ‘This initiative will increase more natural settings for birds and help foster the long-term sustainability of our precious natural resources.”

“Migratory birds are an important part of our ecosystem, and we stand with Governor Cuomo in support of the New York State Lights Out Initiative,” RoAnn Destito, Commissioner, Office of General Services said. “We are happy to ensure that non-essential lighting on OGS-managed buildings is turned off during times of peak migration in the spring and fall.”

Lights Out New York will strengthen the state’s ongoing efforts to reduce light pollution. New York has already enacted new Public Building Law regulations, to take effect in December, that will limit the installation of new outdoor lighting on state managed lands and put restrictions on the brightness, glare and direction of outdoor lighting fixtures. New York’s Lights Out Initiative will precede the implementation of these regulations and help take immediate action to improve the state’s energy efficiency and nighttime environment not only for wildlife but for those looking to enjoy the beauty the nighttime sky.