Wednesday, September 28, 2022 Sep 28, 2022
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Local News

Dallas’ Decision to Dim Night Lights Is For the Birds

Turning off or dimming outdoor lighting for a few weeks can help birds complete their southern migration safely.
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You can save an Indigo Bunting or three if you just dim your outdoor lights for a few weeks, experts say. Courtesy Israel Alapag/Pixabay

Almost 88,000 birds flew over Dallas County between Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. and 7:10 a.m. this morning, migrating south in preparation for the winter. The number of winged commuters above us peaked at 21,800 birds sometime shortly after 10 p.m., according to BirdCast, which provides migratory data on birds on a daily basis.

While we were all sleeping, Baltimore Orioles, Yellow Warblers, Indigo Buntings, Eastern Wood-Pewees, and Dickcissels were among avian flyovers trying to reach warmer temperatures before colder weather sets in.

But your porch light might be throwing them off a bit, experts say. Lights from porch lights and even big buildings attract the birds, which often leads to collisions with buildings as they become disoriented, killing nearly one billion birds each year, according to the Texas Conservation Alliance .

Yesterday, the twice-yearly “Lights Out Texas” initiative kicked into gear in an effort to help all those birds complete their fall migration.

The effort was first started by Houston Audubon after a major bird collision event killed 400 migrating birds in Galveston in 2017. According to Audubon Texas and Texan By Nature, a conservation group founded by former First Lady Laura Bush, everyone is encouraged at work and home to turn off all nonessential lights from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. between Sept. 20 and Oct. 10, especially. If you can hang on a little longer and keep them off until Oct. 29, even better. 

“Light pollution is a growing and underrecognized threat to birds,” Bush wrote last year. “The light emanating from cities like Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston attracts and disorients birds, leaving them confused and vulnerable. Large numbers of light-related collisions have been documented in cities across the country for decades, including here in Texas.”

The city of Dallas does its part. Reunion Tower will be dimming its lights to 50 percent, along with other buildings through Oct. 10. Mayor Eric Johnson issued a proclamation in the spring declaring these twice-yearly migration periods as “Lights Out Nights” in Dallas.

“Lights Out Nights have become a worthwhile tradition in Dallas, and I encourage all of our residents and businesses to again participate if they are able to do so safely,” Johnson said. “Turning off non-essential lighting at night for a few weeks helps our ecosystem, conserves energy, and saves money.”

At our house, we’ve also dimmed our outdoor lights by 50 percent for the next couple of weeks. Yes, I am probably going to walk into the deck several times, but my shin bruises will heal, and I can always say I got them saving birds.

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Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson

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Bethany Erickson is the senior digital editor for D Magazine. She's written about real estate, education policy, the stock market, and crime throughout her career, and sometimes all at the same time. She hates lima beans and 5 a.m. and takes SAT practice tests for fun.

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