Lights Out

Boston skyline at night under a full moon © Ramkumar Subramanian
Boston skyline at night © Ramkumar Subramanian

Illuminated structures attract birds that fly at night, including many nighttime migrants like orioles, wrens, and warblers. They can become disoriented when passing over a brightly lit skyline, aimlessly circling a skyscraper until they collide with it or collapse from exhaustion.  

By turning out the lights, we can remove one source of mortality from already stressed bird populations. Reducing unnecessary nighttime light also cuts the amount of heat-trapping greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. This reduction is a significant opportunity for climate action—commercial buildings are a significant source of US carbon dioxide emissions, and according to the Environmental Protection Agency, 30% of the energy they use is wasted. Reducing energy use by shutting off lights makes both environmental and fiscal sense. 

What You Can Do 

While the Lights Out Boston program (a past partnership with the City of Boston and leading building owners and managers to turn off Boston’s architectural and window lighting at night) is not currently active, buildings can still take action to reduce nighttime lighting. 

By dimming or turning off window lighting and external lighting (including architectural and atrium lighting) from 11pm to 5am during bird migration periods (March 1 to June 1 and again from August 15 to October 31), you can save energy, money, and the lives of migratory birds