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Bird-building collisions
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Jill Palmer's Interview on WCNC
Every spring and fall, millions of birds journey along the Atlantic Flyway north to breeding grounds and back south to their winter homes. For millions of years, the moon and stars have helped them find their way. That is, unless they crash into tall city buildings that are lit up. For just 100 years, artificial light, especially from cities, has steered them off course. They get overwhelmed and confused by the artificial lighting from tall buildings.

Charlotte is taking action to assist these remarkable migrants on their journey with Lights Out Charlotte, founded by Mecklenburg Audubon Society in partnership with Mecklenburg County Natural Resources and Audubon North Carolina in spring 2012. Turning out unnecessary lights will give the more than 200 species of birds that pass through Charlotte the darker skies they need for safe flight. In doing so, you will save money and reduce our city's use of fossil fuels. As an additional benefit we will all see more stars. Bird-friendly skies are friendlier for people, too.

dead birds found during a morning tour of uptown charlotte Sadly, the Mecklenburg Audubon Society members found these dead birds in uptown Charlotte on April 29th during a study of migratory bird deaths from lights left on in skyscrapers at night. A picture tells a thousand words. These beautiful migratory birds made the trip all the way from Central or South America only to be attracted to uptown’s lights where they collided with windows and fell to their death.
The problem

Most birds migrate at night. Artificial lights attract and disorient birds, leading to collisions with buildings. Collisions kill anywhere from 100 million to 1 billion birds a year in the United States. Experts say that building collisions are second only to habitat destruction in human-related causes of bird mortality. This problem is not limited to large cities. During the initial morning survey of Uptown Charlotte buildings on April 29, 2012, Mecklenburg Audubon and Mecklenburg County Natural Resources volunteers found 13 dead and 3 live but injured birds in a single morning while only sampling a small area of the total Uptown area. We were unable to access building roofs to survey. A week-long survey of the same area found 11 additional birds. These are not our local year round birds, the birds in the photo above are warblers and thrushes who have flown upwards of 2,500 miles across mountains and the Gulf of Mexico only to be taken down by something as common as a light bulb. If that light bulb had been extinguished that bird would have flown over Charlotte to its breeding ground to the north. It only needed one more day to make its journey.

Examples of migrant birds
The Ovenbird, Yellow-breasted Chat, Kentucky, Northern Waterthrush and the Blue-winged Warbler are examples of some of the migrants that are confused by city lights. Several of these species are already in decline because of habitat loss.
You can be part of the solution
If you work uptown -
  • Turn out the lights when you leave your office for the day, and ask your employer to turn out the lights during spring and fall migration.
  • Turn off upward facing decorative lighting during the migration seasons.
  • Talk to others to educate them on this serious, life threatening problem to migratory birds.
Uptown Charlotte workers
Are you interested in finding more information on the energy savings benefits of turning off lights in your office space? Check out Smart Energy Now

If you are a building owner or manager -

Participate in Lights Out Charlotte. Heres your letter of Invitation to building owners/managers. Mecklenburg Audubon wants to create a long list of participating businesses and building owners. We want to recognize you for giving that bird just one more day to make that difficult journey.
If you are an architect or designer -
Volunteer to monitor downtown buildings for injured/dead birds during migration: Contact Jill Palmer at for more information. Monitoring will take place August 15th through November 15th and March 15th through May 15th.
Spread the word
Ask for information to share with co-workers and friends. We'll be working on fact sheets and posters. Steer others to our website and this page.
The program is a partnership of
Logos for Audubon of North Carolina, Mecklenburg Park and Rec, and Mecklenburg Audubon
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