State College Bird Club
January 24, 2018
State College Bird Club Meeting, January 24, 2018
Presiding: Doug Wentzel
Recording: Debra Grim
Checklist: 103 species reported, incl Snow Goose, Cackling Goose,
Greater White-fronted Goose, Barn Owl, Snowy Owl, Long-eared Owl,
Short-eared Owl, Northern Shrike, Lapland Longspur, Snow Bunting.
Treasurer report (Jean Miller): $212.48 spent in December
Field trips (Jon Kauffman): Owl Prowl with Diane Bierly on January 25; meet at overlook, Bald Eagle S.P.
Next meeting: February 28, 2018: Erynn Maynard, "Birds and invasive shrubs in eastern forests".
Speaker: Matt Shumar, "Lights Out for birds: creating safe passage for migrant land birds across the landscape".
Matthew Shumar is the Program Coordinator for the Ohio Bird
Conservation Initiative (OBCI), a collaboration of non-profit groups,
businesses, state and federal government agencies, and citizens working
to advance bird conservation efforts. In addition to his work with
OBCI, he is in charge of web communications for the Association of
Field Ornithologists and is the co-editor of the Second Atlas of
Breeding Birds in Ohio.
• Ohio Bird Conservation Initiative website: Ohiolightsout.org
• Matt Shumar’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org
OBCI was established in 2004 and now partners with more than one
hundred signatory organizations throughout the state of Ohio. Their
objective pursues bird conservation, including the lights-out project.
Light pollution disrupts the navigation of migrating birds by rendering
the stars less visible and by luring birds off-course. It is estimated
that 500 million birds per year die in collisions with buildings and
windows. Only cats are a greater threat to birds, as far as direct
human influences go. The taller the building, the higher the danger to
In 1993 Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP) launched in Toronto,
Canada. Volunteers began patrolling the downtown area for dead and
injured birds, and a database was formed. A clip from the documentary
The Messenger explained that a simple change of behavior, flipping a
switch, could save many of these birds. Businesses in Toronto began
dimming the lights, decreasing bird mortality.
The 9-11 memorial in New York City was accumulating large piles of dead
birds during migration. Cornell Ornithology and Audubon NYC began
monitoring radar during migration and the city cooperated in turning
off the lights during peak times.
Lights Off Chicago had similar success, with support from the mayor, and reduced bird collisions 80% since the 1990’s.
Glass is also deadly during the daytime. Building covered in glass kill
birds, but technologies, such as etching, exist to modify the glass
surface to make it less reflective. Cadillac Fairview Corporation was
sued over three highly reflective buildings in Toronto that violated
Canada’s Species at Risk Act.
The hawk silhouettes that are often placed on windows are not
effective. A grid covering of tape or wire that leaves spaces less than
four inches wide is shown to deter bird collisions with windows.
Lights Out recommendations include:
• Reduce/eliminate exterior lights
• Avoid use of spotlights
• Turn off/dim upper floor interior lights
• Draw blinds
• Dim or turn off lights in lobbies/atriums
• Use downward-facing sidewalk lighting
Lights Out in Ohio began in Columbus where it was well received. The
collaboration comprises businesses, conservation groups, and
universities. To monitor the effectiveness, volunteers photographed and
collected fallen birds and delivered the carcass to Oklahoma State
University’s Museum and the injured birds to Ohio Wildlife Center for
Successful in Columbus, the program expanded to Dayton with similar
results. However, it faced pushback in Cleveland, an industrial city
whose officials did not like the name “Lights Out.” This program is
particulary crucial in this city, which perches on the shore of Lake
Erie, where migrating birds tend to congregate before crossing the
lake. Along with other scavengers, gulls were attracted to the dead
birds, and cleaning crews were sweeping birds both dead and alive into
trash receptacles. For over ten years, any efforts at a solution were
rejected, until a TV news story displayed a mass of bird carcasses.
Because Columbus is at the edge of Lake Erie where birds pause before
or after crossing the water, it is a focal point of bird movement.
A dedicated volunteer force to patrol Columbus’ business center,
conversations with building managers, and coordination with city
organizations finally turned the situation around. In 2017, 2,100 birds
were collected. More than 700 of those survived to be released after
rehab and banding. (None of the recovered birds were banded.) 2018
plans included attaching transmitters to study the survivability of
these released birds. Dragonflies and bats were also collected.
The Ohio program has evolved into a statewide organization, the only
one of its kind. Pittsburgh has a BirdSafe program in conjunction with
Powdermill Nature Reserve.
To set up a Lights Out program, coordination of volunteers is crucial.
Volunteers must scour the built-up areas early each morning. There
should be facility, such as a museum or university, that can accept and
use the dead birds, and an organization to rehabilitate the injured
birds. Some architects have embraced the challenge of designing
bird-friendly buildings. Sky watchers may be happy to help with a
lights out initiative. Businesses may find the reduction in lighting
saves money and buys goodwill.
Lights Out, State College, anyone?
Minutes by Debra Grim