Birds that migrate through the spring and autumn are thought to navigate by the light of the stars, using the tiny little pinpricks of light in the night sky to undertake their long and arduous yearly journeys.
However, according to ornithologists, many birds can become disorientated by artificial light, which can result in the birds flying into buildings and dying needlessly. This phenomenon is known as “fatal light attraction” and claims the lives of an estimated billion birds a year in the US alone.
Some birds die from the trauma of impacting into buildings, while others merely become lost and die from a combination of exhaustion and other hazards posed by an urban environment. A major ecological worry presented by fatal light attraction is that it can affect all areas of a bird population, killing even the stronger birds, which are vital to the maintenance of a healthy ecosystem.
The idea to preserve migratory routes by switching out – or else dimming – all nonessential lights was first put forward in the early 1990s by Toronto, Canadas FLAP program. This pioneering work was built upon by the National Audubon Society, who have so far either directly instigated, or else inspired projects similar to, their Lights Out initiative across at least 20 American cities.
According to the Audubon Societys website, “The strategy is simple: By convincing building owners and managers to turn off excess lighting during the months migrating birds are flying overhead, we help to provide them safe passage between their nesting and wintering grounds”.
Thanks to Governor Cuomos support for this initiative, the birds passing over New York City at night will now stand a much better chance of surviving than before.
"This is a simple step to help protect these migrating birds that make their home in New Yorks forests, lakes and rivers," said Governor Cuomo in a statement.
In addition to this good news, the Governor also announced the launch of a new I Love NY Birding website, which will provide New Yorkers with information on bird watching and how to participate in the Lights Out program.
Away from state-run buildings, several prominent New York City landmarks, including The Rockefeller Centre, The Chrysler Building and Time Warner Centre have pledged to take action in support of the states massive bird population. Private citizens will also be encouraged to join in as well, making New York City a far safer place for our feathered friends.