Save our Birds, Turn off the Lights

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

By Adam Kreuzer, guest blogger, Delegate with the International Dark-Sky Association, Chicago Chapter.

Note: As part of the Naperville Park District's commitment to environmental education, stewardship and sustainability, we invited Adam Kreuzer to write this blog post to educate us and our community about the importance of maintaining dark skies at night.

Twice a year, during spring and fall, millions of birds migrate through our area. Unfortunately, according to Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Chicago area, which includes Naperville, is the #1 most hazardous location in the U.S. for migrating birds. In addition to how our buildings are built, artificial light at night is a significant cause of bird fatalities and injuries. Every year, an estimated 600 million birds die from building collisions in the U.S.

Bluebird at Knoch Knolls Nature Center

The great majority of migrating birds migrate at night. During the day, they eat to fuel their trip. But as they fly high above us while we sleep, birds are attracted to the now widespread use of artificial lights at night (ALAN). The lights from the ground distract them. Also, they lose vision of their hereditary, evolutionary beacons: our stars.

Image courtesy of the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA)

In Chicago, volunteers with Chicago Bird Collision Monitors wake every morning to rescue birds that strike lighted buildings. Survivors are taken to Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn. A recent 40-year study of bird fatalities at McCormick Place conducted through the Field Museum concluded that by turning off just half the lighted windows during migration fatal bird collisions could drop 60%!

Infographic courtesy of IDA

Although at home, we may not have migrating birds striking our lighted windows, the unshielded, LED lights in Naperville distract migrating birds. Additionally, artificial lights at night, especially bright white LEDs, impact other wildlife friends, including nocturnal pollinators (moths). Moths, which prefer to pollinate our fruiting and flowering plants, circle white lights until they are eaten by predators or simply tire and die. Bright white lights, when shining into our bedroom windows, affect our circadian rhythm. We sleep less and eat more. As a result, we suffer physically and mentally.

Image courtesy of IDA

Infographic courtesy of IDA

Fortunately, unlike other forms of pollution, with better lighting design and habits, we can make a huge difference. First, consider turning off outdoor lights before you go to bed. If security is a concern, turn off all but the truly necessary light(s) or, better yet, consider using a motion sensor. Second, install fully shielded light fixtures that keep the light on your property instead of on your neighbor's home or shining into our night sky. The International Dark Sky Association website will direct you to hundreds of locally available fixtures. Third, avoid using LED lights that are "bright white" or "daylight white." Instead, use a more yellow/amber bulb, including "soft white" LED bulbs. Lastly, use a bulb that has fewer watts (40 or fewer) or lumens (450 or fewer). LEDs, as compared to other bulbs, are intensely bright.

Infographic courtesy of IDA

Until only about 50 or 60 years ago, in Naperville, we had dark nights. Now, on the best of nights, we see maybe 30 stars. We should be able to see with our naked eyes as many as two thousand! While we have adjusted somewhat to this very recent dramatic change in our environment, our birds and other wildlife friends have not. So, this spring and fall, please turn off the lights and save our birds.

Images courtesy of IDA

Note: Naperville Park District installs security and sports lighting that is low-spill and aimed at the ground. Over the years, the Park District has improved its lighting and continues to be open to more efficient and environmentally sensitive lighting. Most parks close one hour after sunset and the large, natural areas of woodland and prairie remain dark for the wildlife there.

Adam Kreuzer is a Delegate with the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA). The IDA is the recognized authority on light pollution and is the leading organization combating light pollution worldwide. Its purpose is to protect the night from light pollution. Adam has been a Delegate for more than 2 years and is our local Delegate. Before becoming a Delegate, Adam was a commissioner with the Glen Ellyn Environmental Commission. He has been an advocate for the Sierra Club's Cool Cities initiative. Adam resides in Glen Ellyn and works in Wheaton.