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How turning your lights off at night can help this little guy (and millions more) migrate safely

Posted at 5:55 PM, Apr 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-01 11:55:03-04

The Cincinnati Zoo on Tuesday issued a reminder to all Cincinnatians: Close your blinds tight tonight and turn off your porch lights. If you don't, you might attract unwanted attention from above.

Wait, did that sound too ominous?

It did, didn’t it? Let’s backtrack.

The zoo, Cincinnati Museum Center and Cincinnati Nature Center want to encourage the community to reduce their homes’ light output after dark this spring so that millions of migratory songbirds flying over our area can navigate by the stars — which will lead them to their proper summer homes — instead of by your living room lamp — which will lead them to smack messily against your windows.

More than 400 species of bird pass through Ohio each year, according to the official website for the Lights Out Cincinnati initiative. As they do, non-natural light sources such as floodlights and reflective glass can hijack their millennia-old instincts and steer them off-course.

Turning lights out or down at night can reduce bird collisions (with windows, doors and other birds) by up to 80% and help them stay with their flock.

It’s a simple gesture that can help more than 11,000,000 birds this year alone, according to the zoo. Why not give it a try?

If you're interested in seeing which days you can do the most good, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology keeps a radar map showing the density of bird migration across the country each day.