Save the birds, Charlotte. Turn off your office lights

Save the birds, Charlotte. Turn off your office lights
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Bird lovers are asking Charlotte workers and businesses to remember to turn out their office lights at night to help save the lives of migrating birds.

  • Their plea is especially urgent for those in multistory buildings and the towers Uptown, where the lights often leave the birds disoriented.
  • Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center researchers estimate that somewhere between 365 million and 988 million birds are killed each year in the U.S.

Why it matters: It’s more than about being good-hearted and taking care of small beings. The birds help keep our world in order — a single migrating chimney swift, for instance, can eat up to 12,000 mosquitoes a day.

  • Yes, but: Today many of those mosquitoes are loaded up with chemicals, which also makes the birds sick.

Point is: It’s hard out there for a bird these days.

Zoom out: We’re in the peak migration season now through at least the end of this week, with up to 18,000 migrating birds flying through the city each day.

  • Charlotte’s on the edge of the Atlantic Flyway, which runs from Greenland and Canada through coastal North Carolina and south through Florida and Cuba and on to South America.

What you can do: Every morning, volunteers from local Audubon chapters walk Charlotte’s streets documenting which species were killed and where. Then they reach out to the building owners with some ways to help.

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The Audubon North Carolina’s Lights out North Carolina initiative lists three things you can do:

  1. Turn off the lights outside of your home, especially upward-facing lights.
  2. Close blinds and curtains at home and before leaving the office for the day.
  3. If you work in an office building, ask your employer to turn out exterior upward-facing lights, as well as interior office lights from 11pm until dawn.

What birds are visiting now:Warblers!” reader and local bird lover Christian Ayers told me last week. Black and white warblers may stay with us all winter. Others like the American Redstart will have gone through by mid-November, on their way to winter in the Caribbean or Central or South America

  • Sandpipersterns, Flycatchers, and raptors are all coming through now, too.
  • Christian says that after peak migration ends, things will taper off and then be over by mid-November. But the birds’ll be back in mid-March, and at that time they’ll be singing.

Turning off building lights at night helps migrating birds like Black-throated Blue Warblers. Photo: Jesse Gordon/Audubon Photography Awards

Chimney swifts have been putting on a show at places like the Rhino Market on West Morehead, swirling in a vortex over the chimney before whooshing down for the night.

They face a troubling time, as more old buildings with chimneys are torn down. The Audubon folks launched an initiative a few years ago asking folks to save those old roost towers, or to build some on your own.

  • At the very least, they ask, please don’t cap your old chimney that’s not in use.

Swifts have been able to adapt to urban settings. They spend the night in parking decks and other hidden spots of concrete.

But the migration of 2019 brought the terrible event where hundreds of swifts were spooked out of their roosting spot and began flying blind in the night, one after the other crashing into the glass at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

It made for spooky, Hitchcock-y videos on social media. But it was far more traumatic than that for the volunteers and professionals who mobilized to save their lives, as I wrote at the time.

Want to see birds? Mecklenburg’s Audubon Society has regular events, including “Swift Night Out” gatherings at East Mecklenburg High. There’s a beginner bird walk on Saturday from 8-11am at Latta Nature Preserve. And a walk through McAlpine Creek next week to see some of the rare birds that have been popping up there.

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