Sep 14, 2022 - News

Protecting birds during migration season

Black birds fly in front of the moon at twilight.
A swarm of Vaux's swift birds fly with a view of the moon before funneling into a chimney. Photo: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Billions of birds are on the move, migrating south for the winter. They'll pass through our cities by the millions in the coming weeks, en route on the Atlantic Flyway.

  • It's a perilous time for the small but important creatures — the majority of which migrate at night using starlight.

Yes, but: Hundreds of millions of birds die by flying into buildings, often confused by their lights at night, during migration season each year, which in the fall runs from Sept. 10 to Nov. 30.

  • In 2019, thousands of chimney swifts crashed into the NASCAR Hall of Fame building in Charlotte, for example, setting off a mad dash from local groups to save the birds, Axios Charlotte previously reported.

Why it matters: Birds are a vital part of the ecosystems, eating insects, pollinating plants and spreading seeds. But we are losing them at alarming rates.

In response to those deaths, local Audubon chapters are urging people and building managers to turn off their lights after dark.

  • Raleigh was the first city to establish a lights out program in the state during the spring and fall migration seasons, turning off non-essential lights on municipal buildings in the city at night.

Yes, and: Audubon NC says homeowners can help, asking them to:

  • Turn off lights at night, especially upward-facing ones.
  • Close blinds and curtains.
  • Install automatic motion sensor lights when possible.
  • Ask employers to turn out exterior upward-facing lights and interior office lights at their office buildings from 11pm until dawn.
Go watch

If you've never done it, go watch the evening ritual of the migrating chimney swift.

  • The birds — which devour insects like mosquitoes by the thousands — are known for swarming in mass and descending into chimneys like a small tornado.

Official chimney swift watches will take place in Durham and Raleigh this month.

  • In Durham, the New Hope Audubon chapter will host a chimney swift watch party on Sept. 20 on the top floor of the Durham Hotel.
  • In Raleigh, the Wake Audubon and John Connors will host a guided trip to a local roosting site on Sept. 18. Location will be provided to those who RSVP to John Connors at [email protected]

This month, you'll probably find Zach on the back patio at the Accordion Club, drinking a beer and watching the chimney swifts descend into the chimney of TROSA's residential facility on Geer Street.

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