As we enter the annual spring migration time for many birds, valley residents are preparing feeders and nest boxes to welcome feathered friends back to the valley. One more item on the checklist is outdoor lighting.
Most songbirds migrate at night. Outdoor lights at night can be deadly. According to the National Park Service, “Birds navigate by star patterns and the rotation of the sky … night lights disorient their migration, causing them to … circle endlessly, wasting crucial energy and, ultimately, collapsing from starvation.”
During peak bird migration months from March-May and August-October, The National Audubon Society encourages people to help birds and reduce nighttime light pollution by turning out all unnecessary lights from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.
March through May is the annual spring migration for many birds returning to northern climates from the south, and from coastal climates to the inland Northwest. The Methow Valley provides a lush corridor with alpine forests, wetlands and meadows.
Songbirds that color the eastern slopes of the Cascades include the Western tanager, yellow and yellow-rumped warblers, Western and mountain bluebirds, Bullock’s orioles, and rufous and calliope hummingbirds, to name a few. Many public spaces and homes are bird-friendly with feeders, nest boxes and native plants. But most people don’t think about outdoor lighting that is also bird-friendly.
The National Audubon Society recommends turning off exterior decorative lighting, installing downward-facing light shades to eliminate horizontal and upward glare, using automatic motion sensors and timers, and pulling down shades or turning off interior lights on upper stories. Taking these steps helps birds and saves money by reducing energy consumption.
The same steps recommended by the National Audubon Society are ones the Methow Dark Sky Coalition recommends from the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) for outdoor lighting:
• Only be on when needed
• Only light the area that needs it
• Be no brighter than necessary
• Minimize blue light emissions
• Be fully shielded
The IDA has many helpful resources on its website, www.darksky.org, for home and business owners to improve, reduce or eliminate outdoor lighting, including a step by step guide to an outdoor lighting evaluation of the impact of a property’s light in the night.
To participate in the National Audubon Society’s Lights Out Project, people can pledge their participation at www.audubon.org/conservation/project/lights-out. By taking action today, birds can enjoy safe passage through their nesting and migration routes tonight.