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Leave the Lights Out for Birds!

By Annette Price, Chicago Collision Bird Monitors

Chicago building managers and owners can take pride in participating in the nation’s most successful light reduction program for migratory birds. Lights Out! Chicago asks buildings to turn off or dim bright antenna, rooftop and display lights from 11 pm to sunrise every spring and fall migration season.  This act saves the lives of thousands of birds who would otherwise be attracted from their nightly travels towards the confusing city lights.


Lights in a lobby show a safe and attractive place for a bird to try to fly away from a dark exterior.

Migratory birds face an additional hazard from brightly lit lobbies in the early morning hours.  As birds fly into the city just before the rising sun, they enter areas where the outside streets are still dark but lighted lobbies display trees, plantings, fountains and in some cases full screen projections of forests and streams.  These birds are seeking a safe place to find food and shelter, and a lobby whose lights are lit to full capacity invites them away from the darkness and towards the shelter of interior landscaping.

Birds cannot see that between them and a lobby tree there is a deadly invisible barrier of glass.  Dead and injured birds are most often found next to lobbies whose lighted interiors display plantings and fountains. Thousands are recovered every year by Chicago Bird Collision Monitors on their morning patrols.

A 2-year study at McCormick Place found turning off lights resulted in 83% fewer birds deaths – 1,297 birds crashed into lit windows compared to 192 into unlit glass areas.

While lobbies cannot be left in total darkness, there are easy and available ways to minimize risks for migratory birds downtown in the early morning hours (from midnight to sunrise):

  • Motion sensors light only the portions of the lobby that are being used.
  • Timers can turn off or dim lobby lights during early morning hours.
  • Station lighting at lobby desks can illuminate just the areas that staff require.
  • Curtains or shades diminish the amount of light that shines out from windows and lobbies.

Feel free to contact Chicago Bird Collision Monitors if you find a dead or injured bird or if you would like a consultation to see what simple measures you could implement to reduce lighting and make a big difference in preventing bird strikes at your building.

The light you turn out could be the migratory bird you save!

Thank you for helping us help the birds!

Annette Price is the Director of Chicago Bird Collision Monitors (CBCM), an all-volunteer conservation project dedicated to the protection of migratory birds through rescue, advocacy and outreach. For additional information, call (773) 988-1867 or go to