Turning off your Office Lights | Is it “for the Birds?”

By Todd Calongne

Living in a midtown Manhattan high-rise, the views at night are beautiful.  Times Square is lit up with thousands of lights. I see some of my favorite brand names glow down the street without much change from the 1940s. When I look up at the office buildings I see every floor fully lit. I am immediately frustrated because people not working at 2:00 a.m. on Sunday morning on every floor!  Does the building keep lights on for reasons?

I’m not alone with this bird’s eye view.  There are millions of real birds that fly through New York City every year that also see these overly lit buildings and many of them don’t survive the experience.  In certain conditions when birds fly at lower altitudes they smash into windows at speeds that may be in excess of 70 mph. Ouch…splat!

Photo via http://bit.ly/yISNlj

A study conducted by the Field Museum in Chicago showed that by turning the lights off in an office building the number of birds killed dropped by 83%. The well lit buildings confuse birds with their artificial lights, and often blinded by weather are unable to see glass. Often birds are simply exhausted by flying around the lights like moths near a flame and they are easily injured or killed.

The economic impact for the buildings or owners ensuring lights are off, the impact on our aging power grid and the clear lack of energy conservation aside, us green urban dwellers have an opportunity to save the lives of tens of thousands of our winged cohabitants!

NYC Audubon Society Associate Director, John Rowden, PhD. explains,” The built environment of major cities presents innumerable challenges to native birds, particularly migrants, during the fall and spring. Two issues are particularly problematic for birds: the lights of buildings at night and glass that reflects habitat during the day, both of which can kill birds.” More