Partnerships Help the Lights Out Program Expand in North Carolina And Beyond

Wake Audubon’s collaboration with Kane Realty builds on the national Lights Out movement.
Kane Realty will turn off unnecessary lights at its commercial buildings during spring and fall migration. Photo: Courtesy of Kane Realty Corporation

The night sky looks darker–and the future looks brighter–for birds flying through Raleigh, North Carolina. Starting this fall, Kane Realty Corporation, one of Raleigh’s biggest building managers, has committed to participating in the Wake Audubon chapter’s Lights Out Wake initiative. Going forward, during spring and fall migration Kane Realty will turn off unnecessary lights at its commercial buildings and ask its tenants to do the same. This will be crucial for the Wake Audubon chapter’s ongoing work making the city’s night skies safer for migrating birds, and the new collaboration shows how the Lights Out program is growing locally through national partnerships that create new connections on the ground. 

“It is really significant that a commercial entity like Kane Realty recognizes that Lights Out will save birds’ lives and save money,” says Wake Audubon Society board member Phil Doerr. “This influence can help us bring more awareness and persuade more commercial interests to join the initiative.”

For volunteer Lena Gallitano, the partnership with Kane Realty is the biggest thing that’s happened to Lights Out Wake since the group launched the program about ten years ago. She says the inspiration for Lights Out Wake came during a walk with a colleague in 2014, when she saw a Common Yellowthroat trapped in a corner and disoriented by artificial light, and placed the tiny masked bird in a safe place to rest before releasing it in her backyard. 

“I opened the container and the bird flew out, landed on a branch on one of my flowers, and turned around and looked at me like, ‘Thank you so much for helping me,’” she says. 

Soon after, volunteers started surveying buildings during spring and fall migration to track the number of birds killed or injured by collisions. The data helped them determine buildings of concern in order to work with those building managers. 

The new collaboration with Kane Realty was made possible through Audubon’s ongoing work with KPMG LLP, a multinational company that provides audit, tax, and advisory services. Since 2021, KPMG has been promoting Lights Out to owners and managers across their U.S. offices. Audubon’s Lights Out program has been connecting those offices with Audubon chapter leaders and staff engaged in Lights Out efforts. This is already leading to more sustainable and meaningful partnerships that help KPMG offices save energy while saving birds at the same time. 

“At KPMG, we believe in protecting our natural environment,” says KPMG Senior Director of Corporate Sustainability Darren McGann. “By engaging our building property managers in the Lights Out program, we're taking concrete steps to reduce light pollution and protect migratory birds that play a vital role in our ecosystem. We're proud to be part of this important initiative by the National Audubon Society, and we hope that our example can inspire others to join us in building a more sustainable and responsible future.”

Billions of night-flying migratory birds make their way through cities during spring and fall migration–and many of them are vulnerable to window collisions. Research indicates that in the United States alone, up to one billion birds die from collisions each year after becoming disoriented by bright artificial lights and skyglow. This month, Chicago saw a mass collision event where 1,000 songbirds collided with a single building in one night. To reduce bird-building collisions, the Audubon network has been working with property owners, building managers, and local governments to shut off, shield, or dim all unnecessary lighting during migration seasons. 

Lights Out is gaining momentum, with more than 45 cities involved, programs in 18 of the top 20 most-dangerous metropolitan areas for migratory birds, and several state and regional efforts underway. In North Carolina, the city of Raleigh was the first to join the cause, and, with support from Audubon North Carolina, chapters have established programs with other towns and cities, including Matthews, Greensboro, Asheville, Cary, Winston-Salem, and Chapel Hill. 

“Lights Out Wake underscores just how much power chapters have to make change in their communities,” says Ben Graham, engagement director at Audubon North Carolina. “They are on the ground, showing up year after year to reach out to local officials and building managers. We're seeing the momentum really take off.”

For Doerr, Audubon chapters are “where residents and constituents can speak directly to local leaders and media to educate and advocate for Lights Out.” And according to Gallitano, the group has learned to be persistent with their message each migration season, build relationships with local elected officials, and communicate the value of Lights Out from many perspectives—from conservation to urban nature and energy savings. 

“Every city around is trying to save energy,” she says.

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

  • Turning off exterior decorative lighting
  • Extinguishing pot and flood-lights
  • Turning off interior lighting, especially on higher stories
  • Down-shielding exterior lighting 
  • Installing automatic motion sensors and controls 
  • Assessing the quality and quantity of light needed, and avoiding over-lighting with newer, brighter technology 

To learn how you can get involved with a Lights Out program, contact your local chapter