City Lights and Bird Migration

Light pollution used to be something that interfered with star gazing and I always loved to be able to get away from the city and look up at the night sky. Sadly, light pollution is growing in North America by up to 10% per year and has far greater ramifications than most of us knew. The problem is that light glow is a powerful attraction for migratory birds.

Nearly all birds in North America – some 80% – migrate each spring and fall. And of those species that migrate, 70% travel at night.
Nocturnal migration has many adaptive benefits: For example, the weather conditions are better, and fewer predators are active. But it makes most migratory birds highly susceptible to light pollution. In North America alone, it is estimated that up to 1 billion migrating birds die each year from collisions with buildings.

Artificial light lures migrating birds into cities, where they face a gauntlet of threats (

While we here in Kittitas County do not have the extreme light pollution problem of densely populated cities, here are some things you can do if you enjoy lighting up the outside of your home. This is especially important during Fall and Spring when bird migration is at its peak.

  • Install lights that are angled down to the area you need to light.
  • Lower the height of your lights so they provide an ambient glow.
  • Use warm colored lights.
  • Turn your solar LED lights off.
  • Shield lights — if your neighbor can see the point of light then your lights are too bright.
  • Don’t use security lights all night.
  • Choose sensor lights carefully.
  • Use fewer lights.