Starting April 1, the skies of Philadelphia will stop shining so bright, all for a good cause. The Lights Out Philly program is an initiative that seeks to save the lives of migratory birds by dimming artificial lights or turning them off entirely. The program runs from April 1 to May 31 and from August 15 to November 15, when migratory birds make their way through the city.

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During these periods, property managers and tenants are asked to voluntarily switch off lights or dim them from midnight to 6 a.m. Bird Safe Philly announced the Lights Out Philly initiative, which brings together the Audubon Mid-Atlantic, the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club and the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. The coalition was formed following a mass collision of migratory birds last October.

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“We have specimens in the academy’s ornithology collection from a kill that happened when lights were first installed on Philadelphia’s City Hall tower in 1896,” said Jason Weckstein, associate curator of ornithology at Drexel University’s Academy of Natural Sciences.

Weckstein says that the collision last year was caused by a combination of situations, including heavy clouds on a perfect migratory day. “Conditions were perfect for a heavy migratory flight and imperfect given that there was a low ceiling of clouds and rain. That in combination with Philly’s bright city lights was a disaster for many fall migrant birds winging their way south.”

When birds migrate, they depend on celestial cues such as stars to find their way. When they cannot see such cues on a cloudy day, collisions are possible. Scientists also say that artificial lighting can confuse birds. Weckstein says that when birds see cloud and star reflections in windows, they may get misguided and collide.

Among the bird species at the risk of collision are the ovenbird and black-throated blue warbler. The same birds are also threatened by conditions such as climate change.

The Building Owners and Managers Association of Philadelphia has said that many house managers and owners are ready to support the move. As BOMA executive director Kristine Kiphorn said, “We have some early adopters and the list is approaching 20 buildings, many of which are iconic and very recognizable members of the Philadelphia skyline.”

Via AP News

Lead image via Pixabay