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'Lights Out': Austin businesses to turn off lights overnight to save migrating birds

Residents and businesses are asked to turn off non-essential lights from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. as part of the statewide initiative.

AUSTIN, Texas — On Tuesday, the Travis County Commissioners Court voted to approve an effort to get Travis County residents and businesses to turn off some of their lights to help save birds’ lives.

The statewide initiative asks residents and businesses to turn off non-essential lights from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. during the peak bird migration period, Monday, April 19, 2021 through Friday, May 7, 2021.

This decision is in conjunction with the nationwide initiative called Lights Out, which works to protect billions of birds as they migrate across the U.S. Many of these migration patterns occur at night.

Light from buildings, especially in urban areas, attracts and disorients these migrating birds, which confuses and exhausts them. It also makes them vulnerable to collisions with buildings. According to Lights Out Texas, birds use the moon, stars and sun to navigate.

Texas is globally important for birds, according to research done by the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology and Lights Out Texas. About one in every three birds migrating through the U.S. fly through Texas.

Reducing light pollution at night for a few hours, where possible, can still support this effort. Turning off lights dramatically reduces hazards and disorientation by light, allowing birds to safely proceed with their migratory journeys.

Travis County said the effort has the added benefit of helping the community conserve electricity as Earth Day approaches. It said lowering energy consumption aligns with the county’s Climate Action Plan and Resolution on Net Zero Carbon Emissions.

For more information, visit https://travisaudubon.org/lights-out-texas.

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