Author: Susan Moses, Isabel Lawrence, Ty Choate
Published: 4:33 PM EST November 30, 2023

AKRON, Ohio — While the city of Akron still sleeps, volunteers are out armed with flashlights searching, no matter the weather. 

This is Lights Out Akron – part of a statewide initiative that also includes ClevelandColumbus, Toledo, Cincinnati and the Miami Valley. Lights Out does this every spring and fall as millions of birds migrate through Ohio during the night. 

“Basically we are going to do a loop around the university and then we’re gonna head into downtown.” 

Our guide is Shane Good, Senior Director of Animal Care at the Akron Zoo.  Both the Zoo and Stark Parks

He is explaining how lights from tall buildings, or those aimed at the sky, can disorient birds, causing collisions. 

It’s 6 a.m. in the morning and just minutes into our walk — a discovery. 

“They may have found something,” Good says as he picks up the pace to meet volunteers who have moved ahead. 

“Is that a sparrow? It’s got a little yellow on its head. Yeah. A White-throated sparrow,” the volunteers confirm. 

It’s not a surprising find. 

This type of bird often congregates in green spaces, and flies at a lower altitude, putting them at greater risk of strikes. 

MAP: National Lights Out Coverage Area

“Many of the birds that hit windows, we find are dead on arrival. But there are on occasions live birds that we can rescue and rehabilitate,” Good explains. 

After discovery, the team takes care in documenting their find. 

Credit: WKYC
The team searches along sidewalks and by sides of buildings, looking for birds in collisions. They do this during the fall and spring.

“So what our crew has done is we’ve taken data on the location. We’re also looking at weather parameters. And so we collect these birds, we put the data into our system,” Good says. 

Weather can change a migratory bird’s route, pushing them into territory they might not otherwise fly. 

The purpose of this all-volunteer program — is not about collecting the dead. 

It is about learning from it:

How and where the strikes happen?

And what can be done to create a safer passage for migratory birds – going forward?

“One thing we’ve gotten really good with at Lights Out Akron is just monitoring and, and really honing our skills and identification of, how we find buildings, how we identify problem areas.”

As the sun rises, so does the risk of collisions. Glass buildings reflect sunlight or trees, confusing the birds and making strikes more common. 

Glass buildings reflect sunlight – or even trees, making strikes more common. 

“It’s estimated up to 1 billion birds per year are killed from flying into buildings in just the United States alone,” Good says. 

Though certain buildings pose a greater threat, the Lights Out team is quick to note, there are no villains here.  Rather, their experience shows building owners, developers and tenants want to help when they can.  Simple things like turning off more lights when possible. It’s just one preventative measure.  There are more.

“The application of window films to break up the reflections, or where there’s new construction, encouraging building owners to start from the beginning in their construction process with bird-friendly windows,” Good shared. 

 By the end of our walk 10 birds are collected and catalogued. All but one are migratory.  Unfortunately none of them survived. 

It is not easy work, especially for a people who enjoy spotting or tracking birds in flight.  But they are committed to the cause.

“This really is a labor of  love for these volunteers. They’ve been out here in the rain all morning, it’s been chilly. they got up well before sunrise. but this team is dedicated to saving birds,” Good said as we wrapped up for the day. 

Lights Out Akron and other Lights Out programs area always looking for more volunteers

Want to make your building or home more bird-friendly? Get on board HERE

This article was originally published on WKYC 3:

Lights Out Akron making city skies a safer space for migratory birds