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Raleigh To Turn 'Lights Out' After Hours To Protect Migrating Birds

A picture of the Raleigh skyline at night.
Raleigh will dim or turn off lights on city-operated buildings after hours.

Buildings in downtown Raleigh will turn off non-essential lights late at night to protect migrating birds, according to the City of Raleigh Office of Sustainability.

Kim Brand of Audubon North Carolina said most songbirds migrate at night, and on a clear night, birds don't have much trouble navigating around tall buildings.

"But when it's cloudy or rainy, city lights create this big dome of light, and often, the birds are flying at a lower altitude," Brand said. They're attracted to the lights kind of in the same way a moth is attracted to a porch light. So they will come down and circle the light and become exhausted and disoriented."

Brand added that birds sometimes misjudge that a window is solid and fly into one.

Winston-Salem and Charlotte have already joined in Audubon's Lights Out initiative, turning off lights on some buildings to reduce the number of birds becoming disoriented and crashing into them.

Rick LaRose of Audubon Wake County says Raleigh's Office of Sustainability quickly got on board, and has begun turning off non-essential lighting on city-operated buildings.

"This is a wonderful green initiative. It's going to not only protect our migrating birds, but it also should save in reduction of utility expenses, CO2 emission and more," LaRose said. "So we expect others to hopefully follow suit given the city's leadership here."

Audubon Wake County volunteers counted 100 dead or injured birds surrounding buildings downtown between Fall 2013 and this past spring.

Lights will dim or go out between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. The Duke Energy Performing Arts Center will adjust lighting after the final show of the evening.

Megan Anderson of Raleigh's Sustainability office said the city had already begun dimming and putting out lights after hours to save energy.

"It doesn't really change a lot of our practices already, but it just kind of reinforces the fact that we value wildlife conservation in Raleigh," Anderson said.

She added that she hopes privately owned buildings downtown will follow suit.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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