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DEC Contact: Jeff Wernick (518) 402-8000
PressOffice@dec.ny.gov

May 20, 2022

‘LIGHTS OUT’ INITIATIVE LAUNCHED IN NEW YORK TO PROTECT MIGRATING BIRDS

State-Owned and Managed Buildings to Take Measures to Reduce Light, Prevent Bird Collisions

New Capital Region Birding Trail Segment Also Launched to Increase Recreational Opportunities

 

New York State agencies today announced two initiatives designed to protect and foster increased appreciation for birds - a new ‘Lights Out’ initiative to help protect migrating birds as they navigate night skies, and the launch of the Capital Region segment of the New York State Birding Trail to highlight the State’s world-class and wide-ranging birding opportunities. State buildings participating in Lights Out will keep non-essential outdoor lighting from affecting the ability of birds to migrate successfully, both in the Capital Region and throughout New York.

 

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “We all play a role in the protection of our natural resources and the Lights Out initiative is a simple way to help a variety of bird species survive and thrive during the busy migration season. DEC is proud to join several partners to lead by example and take actions that will reduce bird collisions. We are also excited about the ongoing progress in completing the New York State Birding Trail with this newest Capital Region segment that all New Yorkers can enjoy.”

 

New York State Office of General Services (OGS) Commissioner Jeanette Moy said, “Migrating birds face many dangerous obstacles during their long journeys each year. Reducing excessive outdoor lighting on buildings is an easy and sensible step we can take to minimize those threats. Team OGS encourages everyone to learn what they can do to help ensure safe seasonal bird migration throughout New York State.”

 

Many species of shorebirds and songbirds rely on constellations to help them navigate to and from their summer breeding grounds through the State. Excessive outdoor lighting, especially in adverse weather conditions, can cause these migrating birds to become disoriented, a phenomenon known as fatal light attraction. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it has led to collisions with windows, walls, floodlights, or the ground and the death of an estimated 500 million to one billion birds annually in the United States. 

 

Lights Out directs State-owned and managed buildings to turn off non-essential outdoor lighting from 11 p.m. to dawn during the spring migration through May 31 and also during the peak fall migration, August 15 through November 15. State agencies will also be encouraged to draw blinds, when possible, and turn off non-essential indoor lighting during Lights Out times. In addition to benefiting migrating birds, Lights Out promotes sustainability and provides a cost-savings to the State.

“We are in the midst of peak migration at this very moment: On just one night this week, over five million birds were estimated to have flown across New York's night skies. Sadly, collisions with buildings kill between 365 million and one billion birds per year in the United States. Light pollution attracts night-migrating birds away from their natural route and into potentially lethal situations. We applaud the State on launching its 'Lights Out' program, which will reduce excess lighting and minimize threats to migrating birds," said Mike Burger, Executive Director for Audubon Connecticut and New York.

“As we celebrate the incredible places to bird in New York state and engage New Yorkers of all backgrounds in the wonders of birds, NYC Audubon also applauds the State for taking action to protect birds through this important ‘Lights Out’ initiative,” said NYC Audubon Executive Director Jessica Wilson. “NYC Audubon's research has shown that artificial night-time light is a major contributor to the nearly quarter-million bird deaths annually that result from collisions with buildings in New York City. The more buildings that turn off their lights during migration, the safer our birds will be - and the more birds there will be for New York State Birding Trail-goers to enjoy, now and in the future.”

In addition, today DEC announced the grand opening of the Capital Region segment of the New York State Birding Trail, comprised of 29 locations throughout five counties, to provide a variety of quality birding experiences for New Yorkers and visitors to enjoy birdwatching. The trail is managed by DEC in collaboration with partners including the State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. The Statewide trail includes promoted birding locations that can be accessed by car or public transportation, providing an inclusive experience for all visitors to enjoy birds amid beautiful natural settings with little or no cost or investment in equipment.

New segments of the Birding Trail are opened in a phased approach. DEC announced the New York City trail segment in October 2021, Greater Niagara in February 2022, Long Island in March 2022, Hudson Valley last month, and Central-Finger Lakes earlier in May, totaling more than 180 birding locations. Once finished, the Statewide Birding Trail will provide birding opportunities for everyone, regardless of age, ability, identity, or background, across New York State.

State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, “The newest segment of the New York State Birding Trail offers an opportunity to discover some of the Capital Region’s amazing bird watching areas, which provides better access to outdoor recreation and to further connect with nature. Birding is a wonderfully engaging activity and our State Parks along the trail offer exceptional places for people to learn and explore the diverse species of birds in the Capital Region.” 

To promote the trail as an inclusive experience for all, DEC and partners are working to select sites that are welcoming and accessible by public transportation. Five of the Capital Region Birding Trail locations will be participating in this summer’s Nature Bus. The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy (MHLC), the Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA), and local project partners have come together again to offer this free Saturday CDTA Nature Bus service to connect City of Albany residents to eight natural spaces in and around Albany. The service will start Saturday, May 28, and run through Saturday, Sept. 24. For more information, go to https://www.mohawkhudson.org/nature-bus.

DEC also continues to solicit input from a wide range of New Yorkers and organizations that represent Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities and is making information available in both English and Spanish. Bird walks will be held in collaboration with organizations working with BIPOC communities.

Benita Law-Diao, Leader, Outdoor Afro Albany and Upstate NY, said, “I’d like to think there are a lot more birders out there than statistics report. Many of us are unconscious birders and we do things to support and protect them, even though we don’t not follow them with binoculars and can’t identify every bird that flies by. The DEC’s birding programs are far-reaching, and they will allow the public to learn more about bird and birding and take measures to protect them as they face increasing challenges to survive.”

Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy Associate Director Sarah Walsh said, “MHLC is excited to be included on the New York State Birding Trail. This is a wonderful attraction to add to our nature preserves in the Capital Region. Our Normans Kill West Preserve, a great location to connect with birds and nature, can be accessed by CDTA’s Nature Bus (line 872) for free on Saturdays starting May 28th.”

The New York State Birding Trail map is available at www.ibirdny.org and provides valuable information on each site such as location, available amenities, species likely to be seen, directions, and more. Additional information on birding, educational and interpretive information, is also available. Digital information on the Birding Trail will be updated periodically, so budding outdoor enthusiasts are encouraged to check back often. 

 

In addition to State-owned and managed locations for the Birding Trail, publicly and privately managed sites can complete a simple self-nomination process to be considered for inclusion on the trail. Sites all meet criteria to help ensure a positive experience for visitors throughout the state. Additionally, each site will post signage noting it as an official location on the birding trail. For information on the nomination process, see www.ibirdny.org.

 

DEC encourages birding enthusiasts to visit I Bird NY for more information on where and how to observe birds, upcoming bird walks, a downloadable Beginner's Guide to Birding (available in Spanish), and additional resources.

 

DEC manages and oversees nearly five million acres of public lands and conservation easements and plays a vital role in both protecting New York’s natural resources and providing opportunities for people to enjoy the outdoors. From fishing on scenic streams, hiking and rock climbing, swimming and boating, birding, and nature study, or simply relaxing in a tent under the stars, there are endless adventures to be found. Visit http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/, connect with us on Facebook, or follow us on Instagram and Twitter.

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