Light pollution threatens birds, but solutions are readily available

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The theme for the day this year is “Dim the Lights for the Birds at Night”.

Light pollution is increasing worldwide. It is currently estimated that more than 80% of the world’s population lives under “lit skies”, a figure closer to 99% in Europe and North America. The amount of artificial light on the Earth’s surface is increasing by at least 2% every year and could be much more.

“Natural darkness has conservation value just like clean water, air and soil. One of the main objectives of World Migratory Bird Day 2022 is to raise awareness of the problem of light pollution and its negative impacts on migratory birds,” said Amy Fraenkel, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Migratory Species wildlife (CMS).

“Solutions are readily available and we hope to encourage key decision makers to adopt measures to address light pollution,” she said.

Confused birds

Light pollution is a significant and growing threat to wildlife, including many species of migratory birds. Every year, light pollution contributes to the death of millions of birds. It alters the natural patterns of light and dark in ecosystems. It can alter the migration patterns, foraging behaviors and vocal communication of birds.

Attracted to artificial light at night, especially in low cloud, fog, rain, or when flying at low altitude, migratory birds become disoriented and may end up circling in lighted areas. Depletion of energy reserves puts them at risk of exhaustion, predation and fatal collision with buildings.

“A huge diversity of birds, active at night, are impacted by light pollution. Many nocturnal migratory birds such as ducks, geese, plovers, sandpipers and songbirds are affected by light pollution causing disorientation and fatal collisions. Seabirds such as petrels and shearwaters are attracted to artificial lights on land and fall prey to rats and cats,” said Jacques Trouvilliez, Executive Secretary of the African Waterbird Agreement- Eurasia (AEWA).

Solutions and recommendations to mitigate light pollution

Light pollution guidelines covering sea turtles, seabirds and migratory shorebirds were endorsed by CMS Parties in 2020.

Among their recommendations, the guidelines set out six principles of best lighting practice and call for environmental impact assessments for relevant projects that could lead to light pollution. These should consider the main sources of light pollution at a given site, the wildlife species likely to be affected, and facts about proximity to important habitats and migration routes.

New guidelines focusing on migratory landbirds and bats are currently being developed under CMS. They will be presented to CMS Parties for adoption at the 14th meeting of the CMS Conference of the Parties in 2023.

Measures already taken

Many governments, cities, businesses and communities around the world are already taking action to combat light pollution.

In some cities, especially in North America, initiatives such as “Lights Out” programs and bird-friendly building guidelines aim to protect migratory birds from light pollution by encouraging building owners and managers to turn off everything. unnecessary lighting during migration periods.

“World Migratory Bird Day is a call to action for the international conservation of migratory birds. As migrating birds travel across borders, inspiring and connecting people along the way, our goal is to use the two days in 2022 to raise awareness of the threat of light pollution and the importance of dark skies for bird migrations,” said Susan Bonfield, Environment Director for the Americas.

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