Lights out! Washington state residents are urged to turn off artificial lights as more than 11.5 MILLION migratory birds using stars to find their way home will fill the night sky this week
- Millions of birds have left the Gulf of Mexico and are moving to Washington
- Tens of thousands of birds are expected on Friday and on weekends
- However, scientists say at least 2.6 million people will flood the skies on Monday
- The birds make the trip at night to avoid predators
- It also means that when artificial light illuminates the sky, they will fly
- Light pollution can confuse birds and cause them to collide with buildings
Washington state residents are being asked to dim outside lights in preparation for more than 11.5 million migratory birds to fill the night sky in the next few days.
Around 2,600 flew over Spokane Thursday night and an estimated 12,700 flooded skies over Seattle as well, but the majority is expected tonight through Monday.
More than 7,800 birds are expected to fly over Seattle and 3,700 over Tacoma on Friday evening, a total of 2.7 million across the state and 2.6 million more are expected on Monday.
The birds come from their winter breeding grounds in the Gulf of Mexico and choose to make a long night journey to avoid predators and take advantage of cooler temperatures to increase body heat.
However, predators may no longer be their greatest threat, as light pollution kills up to 988 million birds annually.
The feathered creatures are confused by artificial light and instead of landing gently on green pastures, many collide with hard windows and buildings.
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Washington state residents are being asked to dim outside lights in preparation for more than 11.5 million migratory birds to fill the night sky in the next few days. Seattle is on high alert with more than 7,800 birds flying on Friday night
Dr. Alejandro Rico-Guevara, Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of Washington and Bird Curator at the Burke Museum, told King5, “It’s amazing how these birds travel thousands of miles at night.”
‘And by doing this, they use different clues. One of them is starlight and moonlight, and various lights in the area that have come to life over the past 100 years are really disoriented. ‘
Migration started earlier this week and most of the birds are on the final stretch of the journey.
Almost 70 percent of all North American birds migrate at this point, and 80 percent of them fly at night.
The birds come from their winter breeding grounds in the Gulf of Mexico and choose to make a long night journey to avoid predators and take advantage of cooler temperatures to increase body heat. But light pollution confuses birds
However, man-made light pollution hinders their ability to stay on course while floating about 1,000 to 2,000 feet in the air, causing them to collide with windows and buildings.
Trina Bayard, director of bird protection at Audubon Washington, told The Spokesman Review that light pollution kills between 365 million and 988 million birds each year.
Rico-Guevara said reducing light pollution is generally good practice, but is especially important during the migration season – and even more so when large numbers of birds are forecast to migrate through metro areas like this week.
“These huge buildings attract the most birds because they are the tallest in the sky,” he said. “But as an individual, we can definitely make a difference just by reducing the overall glare of the area.”
Almost 70 percent of all North American birds migrate at this point, and 80 percent of them fly at night. Pictured are thousands of migratory geese that have returned to Washington in recent years
New York City is one of the brightest cities in the world. In 2015, officials began converting state buildings to “non-essential outdoor lighting” at night to help birds get to their destinations safely.
The change will be activated at 11:00 PM ET and will run until dawn during peak migrations in both spring and fall.
According to Audubon, Lights Out’s efforts are protecting birds in other cities on the east coast such as Baltimore and Washington, as well as regions in the Midwest such as Chicago, Minneapolis and San Francisco.