HARRISBURG — Up to one billion birds die each year across the United States when they collide with buildings and windows, after being attracted and confused by bright artificial lights at night and glass.
Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn has announced that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is joining forces with the Appalachian Audubon Society and property owners in the City of Harrisburg to help reduce light pollution in Harrisburg to assist birds when they migrate in the spring and fall.
“This voluntary program involves turning off or blocking as many external and internal building lights as possible at night during migration seasons when birds are passing through the city and state capitol in large numbers,” Dunn said. “We invite businesses and residents in the city to join in.”
Dunn noted that the program applies to upper level and internal building lights and is not intended to impact street-level outdoor safety lighting.
Harrisburg joins Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and more than 30 other cities nationwide, with Lights Out programs. The National Audubon Society, along with partners, established the first Lights Out program in 1999 in Chicago.
The Pennsylvania Department of General Services (DGS) is removing the spotlights from the Capitol Dome and turning out the lights in the atrium of the Keystone Building. Frequent messaging campaigns will also be conducted with all building tenants in the complex to ensure that lights are turned off at the end of the day.
“While we all can appreciate the beauty of a brightly lit skyline at night, and the stunning views it creates, what we cannot appreciate, or accept, are the deadly consequences those bright lights have on migratory birds flying through our city at night,” DGS Acting Deputy Secretary for Property and Asset Management Jason Snyder said. “Lights Out Harrisburg brings to our attention to that issue and gives us an opportunity to be a part of the solution.”
The first season of the annual Lights Out Harrisburg program began April 1 at the start of peak spring migration and runs through May 31 when most winged migrants will have passed through Harrisburg. In the fall, Lights Out Harrisburg and peak migration will occur between Aug. 15 and Nov. 15 as birds travel south. Although the request is for lights out during these peak migration periods, light pollution is something to consider all year for Pennsylvania’s resident birds.
Each year birds pass through southcentral Pennsylvania during spring and fall while migrating between their breeding and wintering grounds. Many never complete their epic journey because they are killed when they fly into buildings and windows, confused by the bright artificial lights and glass.
“Light pollution is one of the many challenges facing Pennsylvania birds and it’s a problem that we can begin to solve today. During the spring and fall migration periods, all commercial, residential, and municipal property owners and tenants are encouraged to voluntarily switch off unnecessary lights. Buildings and homes of any size are encouraged to participate. This is a collaborative effort by the Harrisburg community,” said Appalachian Audubon Society President Ali Bowling.
Building owners interested in participating can find more information and sign up for Lights Out Harrisburg on the Appalachian Audubon website.
“Many eastern U.S. bird species are in steep decline, but that can change,” said Pennsylvania Game Commission State Ornithologist Sean Murphy. “There are so many ways to help save birds. All Pennsylvanians can make a difference with everyday actions–Lights Out Harrisburg provides a safer path for migratory birds and will help bolster bird populations across the continent.”
Lights Out Harrisburg is the result of a collaborative effort facilitated by DCNR including the local Audubon society chapter Appalachian Audubon, City of Harrisburg, GreenGov Council, DGS, Pennsylvania Game Commission, Harristown Development Corp., Harrisburg Downtown Improvement District, National Audubon Society, Wyncote Audubon Society and the West Shore Wildlife Center.
“Harristown is proud to have enrolled our three largest towers, 333 Market Street, the Strawberry Square Tower and the Commonwealth Tower in this initiative,” said Harristown Development Corp. President and CEO Bradley Jones. “Thank you to the Appalachian Audubon Society for their education and outreach helping us to make a positive difference during bird migration periods.”
“Audubon’s climate science revealed that two-thirds of North American bird species are at risk of extinction from climate change, including Harrisburg birds like Ovenbirds and Black-throated Blue Warblers. We have to do whatever we can to minimize the dangers birds face as they migrate along the Atlantic Flyway,” said Audubon Mid-Atlantic Program Manager Keith Russell.