In April and May, and then again in September and October, migratory birds follow their instinctual paths and pass through major cities along their route. There are more than 100 species of migratory birds that travel through Baltimore to their breeding grounds farther north every year. The species range from "little brown job" sparrows to the flashy, colorful warblers.
Light pollution, which is excessive artificial light, from buildings and glass windows can interfere with the internal navigation of these birds, and even leads to the death of many. It is estimated that up to 1 billion birds die from collisions in North America every year. Thankfully, organizations and advocacy groups have been working to combat this issue!
In Baltimore, Lights Out Baltimore
(LOB) is a group of volunteers who walk around the city daily in search of injured birds. They rescue those they can, while also collecting any birds that perished. This effort is crucial to understanding the migration pattern of these birds and better informing how they can be protected.
Lights Out Baltimore and other groups also advocate for cities to be conscious of light pollution. Birds are attracted to white and yellow light, which is commonly used in downtown lighting. These groups offer solutions for city structures to mitigate light pollution, such as turning off all non-essential lighting from 11 pm to 6 am and replacing exterior white and yellow lights with "cool colors," such as blues, greens and purples. These small steps help reduce bird collisions with exterior glass and lessen birds’ attraction to the city lights!
Since 2010, the National Aquarium has supported initiatives to lessen light pollution and bird collisions by adding cool color exterior lights and turning non-essential lights off during migration months. As the first official Baltimore building to participate in these initiatives, we are glad that more organizations continue to take the pledge to protect these migratory species.
Learn more about Lights Out Baltimore—and how you can get involved in your own city—here!