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Help Save Migrating Birds By Turning Off High-Rise Lights At Night, Birders Say

Fall migration has begun in Chicago, but birds can get confused by light and windows. Turning off the lights after 11 p.m. and drawing blinds can help.

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DOWNTOWN — High-rise dwellers are encouraged to turn off their lights after 11 p.m. for several months to stop migrating birds from hitting their windows. 

The fall migration season through Chicago runs through Nov. 15, according to the Chicago Audubon Society. About 5 million birds from 250 species migrate through the city each year — and some meet their end against tall buildings, according to the group.

Birds can become confused by bright lights in tall buildings, leading them to circle the building until they die of exhaustion or collision. Birds are also lured into reflective windows and lighted atrias when they see trees or sky in them, according to the Audubon Society.

Chicagoans can help protect the birds by turning out lights or drawing blinds after 11 p.m., so birds can fly past without their sense of direction being thrown off, according to the Audubon Society.

RELATED: Chicago’s The Most Dangerous City For Migrating Birds In The Fall. Here’s How To Help Them

The recommendations apply to people living on the upper floors of all buildings 40 stories or more and people in buildings of 20 stories or more that are isolated from others, according to the Audubon Society. 

People in short buildings along the lakefront with glass exteriors can save birds by turning off lights or drawing their blinds, too, according to the Audubon Society. 

People in offices and residential buildings on the perimeter of the Downtown area — regardless of height — are encouraged to turn off lights or draw blinds from 4 a.m. to full daylight, according to the Audubon Society. 

Chicago is a “critical survival point” for many migrating birds, said Edward Warden, president of the Chicago Audubon Society. The city is along the Mississippi Flyway, a superhighway for birds that like to fly along the edge of waterways to reach breeding grounds in Canada and the northern United States. 

Along the journey, Lake Michigan serves as a stop sign. Land birds do not like to fly over water, causing a “funneling effect” that veers them to rest and refuel in Chicago, Warden said. 

RELATED: Up To 200 Birds A Night Die Crashing Into McCormick Place Windows. Turning Off Half The Lights Could Save Them, Study Finds

Chicago and the Mississippi Flyway comprise one of the most well-flown passageways in the country, said Stephanie Beilke, senior manager for conservation science at Audubon Great Lakes, 

Late-night lights can come back on once the fall migration season passes on Nov. 15. 

People who come across birds injured by a collision can help by gently putting the bird inside a paper bag or a box with a lid and calling the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors at 773-988-1867.

The Chicago Bird Collision Monitors work with volunteers who will pick up the bird and take him or her to a wildlife center for a health checkup. The bird will be safely released once well so he or she can continue migrating.

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