Lights Out for the Bird Migration

Bird Highways

Ohio is home to two major flyways that are vital to migratory bird populations. Every year, twice a year, these bird highways are full of avian traffic as birds return to their summer breeding grounds and retreat their overwintering habitats closer to the equator. Birds that we call "ours" are often claimed by other states and in some cases other countries. Many threatened and rare species make the often thousands of miles long dangerous trek to ensure the survival of their species. The unfortunate reality is that some don't survive the journey, whether it be due to natural predators or human intervention.

Source: Ohio State University

How can we help?

National studies published by the US Fish and Wildlife Service report that over 3 billion birds a year are killed due to human causes, the top 2 are cats and building collision. Both are easily avoided and could be mitigated with minimal costs.

  1. Keep your pets inside. Cats are estimated to kill over 2 billion birds alone each year. Outside and stray cats are the most detrimental to bird populations. Removing habitat and not feeding stray cats is key to promoting healthy bird habitats. If you have a pet cat consider keeping it indoors, it's more humane for the cat and helps local bird communities.

  2. "Lights off" for the birds. Keeping interior lights on at night is both wasteful and distracting for birds. Birds can't process artificial light the same way that we do and often become disoriented. Simply flipping the light switch off each night can deliver energy savings and help the environment too.

Many cities are adopting practices to help become more migration friendly. Grassroots organizations in Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati are helping to increase awareness for lights out campaigns and other ways to help conserve bird populations. Lights Out Cleveland has a volunteer base that patrols downtown streets on foot and collects any birds that have fallen to the ground for research. Live birds are rehabilitated and released while the deceased are studied to determine the cause of death. To date, Lights Out Cleveland has rescued and rehabilitated over 3,000 birds safely back to the wild.


In and around your home you can modify or choose non reflective glass to decrease bird collisions. Helping birds differentiate between reflection and reality is a simple change to help reduce bird strikes. Creating bird friendly habitat by choosing to plant native trees and shrubs and removing non native or invasive species. Habitat destruction is one of the other leading causes to bird deaths.


Bird Resources

Ohio Bird Conservation Initiative https://obcinet.org/

Lights Out Cincinnati https://ohiolightsout.org/cities/lights-out-cincinnati/

US Fish & Wildlife Bird Threats https://www.fws.gov/library/collections/threats-birds

eBird https://ebird.org/home

Ohio Orinthological Society https://ohiobirds.org/bird-conservation/bird-conservation-in-ohio/

Spring and Fall Birdwatching in Ohio https://www.nature.org/en-us/about-us/where-we-work/united-states/ohio/stories-in-ohio/ohio-spring-fall-birdwatching/


Source: Ohio Bird Conservation Initiative


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