The Lights Out Columbus Monitoring Program was a volunteer-based monitoring program conducted in 2012-2013 to collect data on bird collisions with buildings and nighttime lighting from buildings in downtown Columbus. Prior to this study, no data were available on the number of bird collisions or intensity of nighttime lighting in Columbus, Ohio.
Twenty buildings were surveyed to 2-4 times weekly from March 15th to June 1st and August 15th to October 31st starting at sunrise. During the surveys, volunteers searched the entire perimeter of each randomly selected building, and all injured or dead birds were recorded and dead birds were collected. All birds were donated to Ohio State Museum of Biological Diversity under the Museum’s USFWS Migratory Bird Salvage Permit. Any injured birds found were taken to the Ohio Wildlife Center for rehabilitation.
Surveys for nighttime lighting were conducted at least once per week during the same time periods. To measure lighting, a picture was taken of each of the 20 randomly selected buildings, starting after 11pm. Additionally, as birds can become “trapped” inside beams of upward facing light and circle inside the beams until they drop to the ground from exhaustion, the number of upward facing lights for the side of the building was counted.
What did we find?
During peak bird migration periods in 2012 and 2013, volunteers collected a total of 242 birds of at least 49 species during morning surveys in downtown Columbus.
Across all seasons, our study found a significant relationship between the number of dead or injured birds found at a building and the nighttime light index of the building. This finding indicates that taller, brighter buildings lead to more bird collisions. For more details on our methods and results, see our 2013 Lights Out Monitoring Report.
How do we use this data to save birds?
The results of our monitoring program have important implications for the conservation of Ohio’s migratory birds. Our finding that brighter buildings lead to more dead or injured birds supports the need for a Lights Out program in Columbus to guide building owners, managers, and residents in reducing nighttime lighting. In addition to reducing energy usage and associated costs, our data show that efforts to reduce nighttime lighting on buildings could reduce the number of migratory birds killed by building collisions in Columbus. Data we collect on the location of collisions also guides us in targeting the enrollment of buildings where volunteers found a high number of collisions.