We Need Bird-Safe Buildings. The Movement is Growing.

The Audubon network is protecting birds from collisions through Lights Out and bird-friendly glass.
New bird-friendly dotted window treatment at Sister Cities Cafe in Philadelphia. Foto: Keith Russell

The passing of New York City’s beloved Eurasian Eagle-Owl Flaco has called attention to the serious threat of building collisions for birds. Research has shown that building collisions can kill up to one billion birds each year in the U.S. alone. In Chicago this fall, hundreds of migrating birds collided with one building in just one night. We know that reflective glass is a major hazard contributing to these collisions year round, and light pollution strongly influences where migratory birds stop over, often drawing them to densely populated areas where they may be more prone to dangers. 

Scarlet Tanager found outside Sister Cities Cafe in Philadelphia before Bird Safe Philly's new window treatment was installed. Foto: Bird Safe Philly

These deaths are preventable, and thankfully momentum is growing to reduce bird-building collisions in cities and states across the country. Audubon’s regional offices and local chapters are working to implement simple solutions to prevent collisions by making buildings and night skies safer for birds year round. This includes advocating for legislation like the Bird-Safe Buildings Act and working with property owners, building managers, and local governments to turn off excess lighting during spring and fall migration as part of the Lights Out program and install collision-preventing solutions on reflective glass surfaces.  

Audubon’s efforts continue to grow, with more than 50 cities and regions involved in Lights Out Programs, encompassing many of the most dangerous metropolitan areas for migratory birds. The work of chapters and other local groups has been crucial. For example, Wake Audubon in North Carolina recently partnered with one of the biggest building managers in Raleigh on their Lights Out Wake initiative.  

Here are just a few more recent accomplishments from across the network:  

Bird-Safe Progress in Maryland  
Audubon Mid-Atlantic worked closely with Safe Skies Maryland to help pass the Maryland Sustainable Buildings Act, which requires new buildings that receive at least 50 percent public funding to follow bird safe design practices. The Senate and House sponsors Senator Clarence K. Lam and Delegate Terri L. Hill joined Audubon and other Maryland partners for a celebratory bird walk. In Baltimore, Audubon Mid-Atlantic and Lights Out Baltimore joined forces with community partners, including Chesapeake Audubon Society, to create Bird-Safe Baltimore. This network of organizations, agencies, institutions, businesses, and residents formed to build on the efforts of Lights Out Baltimore and works collaboratively to engage Baltimoreans in learning about the issue of bird collisions and the variety of ways to help prevent them during spring and fall migration. While Audubon Mid-Atlantic is no longer coordinating these efforts, the coalition remains committed to reducing obstacles for migratory birds passing through Baltimore.  

Birders celebrate the Maryland Sustainable Buildings Act bill signing on a bird walk with Del. Terri Hill and Sen. Clarence Lam. Foto: Safe Skies Maryland

Lights Out Law in Connecticut 
Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont signed a “lights out” bill that protects birds from light pollution by requiring all state-owned buildings to dim nonessential outdoor lights after 11 p.m. year-round. The CT Office of Fiscal Analysis estimated that the bill will save the state at least $1.3 million per year in energy costs. And Lights Out Connecticut estimated that it could prevent as much as 4.4 million pounds of CO2 from being released into the environment. Lights Out CT advocated for the bill in an effort that brought together conservation groups from across the state. 

Lights Out in Eugene, Oregon 
The city of Eugene, Oregon joined the Lights Out network this past fall, thanks to the efforts of Lane County Audubon’s Lights Out Eugene campaign. Through a proclamation from Mayor Lucy Vinis, community members are encouraged to reduce or eliminate the use of unnecessary lighting during critical migration periods and throughout the year. 

Lights Out for Birds in Minnesota 
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz proclaimed both August 15, 2023 and March 15, 2024 Lights Out for Migratory Birds Day. The proclamations are in alignment with Minnesota’s Climate Action Framework goals to reduce energy use and carbon emissions and build on Audubon Upper Mississippi River’s work protecting birds from light pollution in the state. Currently 85 buildings in 13 cities across Minnesota are participating in the Lights Out program.   

State and City Legislation in New York 
NYC Audubon and Audubon NY are working in partnership to advocate for the FLACO Act, a state bill renamed in memory of Flaco the owl that would require state buildings to use bird-friendly design principles and best practices for newly constructed, acquired, or substantially renovated state-owned and leased buildings. They are also working to advance the Dark Skies Act, which would create state-level requirements for turning off or limiting nonessential lighting at night. In New York City, the chapter is working on the enforcement of the 2021 legislation concerning city-owned and managed buildings and working with the Lights Out coalition on getting Bill 1039 reintroduced in this legislative session.

NYC Audubon Executive Director Jessica Wilson speaks at a rally outside City Hall in support of Lights Out legislation, Int. 1039, on May 11, 2023. Foto: NYC Audubon

Bird-Friendly Window Treatment in Pennsylvania 
Bird Safe Philly worked to install a new bird-friendly window treatment at Sister Cities Cafe. Located in the heart of the downtown area, the cafe has been monitored by Bird Safe Philly since the fall of 2020 and found to be highly prone to collisions. The window treatment, which was supported by local chapters, marked one of the latest accomplishment of Bird Safe Philly, which manages the Lights Out Philly program and oversees bird collision monitoring in the city.  As part of Bird Safe Philly, Wyncote Audubon has recently worked with nature centers and schools to retrofit their windows

Behavior Change for the Climate & Birds in Arizona 
Maricopa Audubon Society was awarded a grant from the Center for Behaviour and Climate to start a Lights Out project in Phoenix, Arizona. The project aims to build a network of buildings and businesses that participate in turning off their lights to reduce power consumption and reduce the incidence of window collisions by birds. The chapter will work with Desert Rivers Audubon Society to accomplish this work over the next year. 

Bird-Friendly Glass in Texas 
Houston Audubon recently consulted Trees for Houston on how to prevent bird collisions at their new headquarters facility. Now the organization has pledged to go Lights Out for Birds and equipped their windows with fritted film, which is nearly invisible but has an embedded pattern that is visible to birds. In Cedar Hill, Texas, staff at Dogwood Canyon Audubon Nature Center met with architects and city planners to help make new Cedar Hill Library opening this spring more bird friendly. In addition to adding all native plants and trees, the facility itself will contain around 70% bird friendly glass using SB70 VT Clear as the low-e and etched with Walker BirdGlass. In Dallas, Texas, the Texas Conservation Alliance has partnered with Greenhill School to promote the Lights Out, Texas campaign. Greenhill School has constructed a new science building with bird-friendly window design, and TCA is currently working with the school’s teachers to develop Lights Out, Texas curriculum.   

Raising Awareness in Florida 
The Duval Audubon Society is building on their education and engagement efforts in Northeast Florida with attendance at outreach events, participation in the Florida Collision Mitigation Team, and a growing number of Rescue Walk Volunteers monitoring for bird collisions. The chapter is also working with local schools that are interested in addressing bird strikes at their buildings.    

Bird-Friendly Building Retrofit in Georgia 
Birds Georgia recently partnered with the Burton 4-H Center on Tybee Island to retrofit some of their buildings and even a few vehicles with Feather Friendly® Harmony decals to deter birds and reduce window collisions on their campus. In total, 1,050 square feet of glass were retrofitted, including 8 buildings and 4 buses. Situated on six acres on a tidal creek surrounded by marsh, the camp opened in 1947 and today operates year-round, reaching more than 8,000 students and adults annually through their environmental education and summer camp programs. The Burton 4-H Center plans to incorporate the issue of bird-building collisions and solutions into their ornithology curriculum, and educational window clings were also installed for passive education. The project was funded by a Disney Conservation Fund grant.

Decals are installed on a vehicle at Burton 4-H Center on Tybee Island to help deter birds and reduce window collisions on the campus. Foto: Birds Georgia

Wherever possible, you can make your home a more bird-friendly space and help reduce collisions by:  

  • Making reflective glass more noticeable for birds by creating densely spaced patterns on them or installing physical barriers like screens or netting in front of the glass  
  • Turning off unnecessary lights at night 
  • Placing any birdfeeder directly on your window or within 3 feet of it to ensure that birds cannot build enough momentum to strike the window from the feeder 

To learn how you can get involved with a Lights Out or Bird-Safe program, check the Lights Out Network map or contact your nearest regional office or local chapter.