Turn the Lights Out. Here Come the Birds.

<img src="https://static01.nyt.com/images/2021/03/24/multimedia/00xp-birds1a/00xp-birds1a-articleLarge.jpg?quality=75&auto=webp&disable=upscale&quot; alt="Each year, about 365 million to one billion birds die by smacking into reflective or transparent windows.
Credit…Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Buildings, landmarks and monuments are turning off lights to prevent fatal impacts as birds set off on spring migration.

Published April 10, 2021Updated April 12, 2021

Dozens of American cities are being transformed this spring, enveloped in darkness as the lights that usually brighten up their skylines are turned off at night to prevent birds from fatal impacts during their annual migrations.

Each year, an estimated 365 million to one billion birds die by smacking into reflective or transparent windows in deadly cases of mistaken identity, believing the glass to be unimpeded sky.

“These birds are dying right in front of their eyes,” said Connie Sanchez, the bird-friendly buildings program manager for the National Audubon Society, which for two decades has asked cities to dim their lights from about mid-March through May, and again in the fall, under its Lights Out initiative.

Since late last year, at least six cities have joined forces with the 35 other places where the society, local organizations, ornithology experts and some of the nation’s largest companies have been helping birds navigate in urban centers. The efforts are gaining ground in cities including Chicago, Houston and New York City, which are among the top 10 in the United States for light pollution.

The timing of the lights-out campaign varies based on location. In Texas, whose coastal lands are the first that birds encounter after they cross the Gulf of Mexico, buildings will go dark in Dallas from mid-March through May. In Fort Worth, at least 11 of the city’s most prominent buildings will dim their lights from midnight to 6 a.m. through May 31.

In Jacksonville, Fla., where migration started in mid-March, building owners and managers are examining data from volunteers who walk the city, collecting carcasses and documenting where birds have fallen.

Buildings in Philadelphia have also joined the nationwide effort, a step that experts hope will help to avoid a repeat of the deaths of more than 1,000 birds last October, an event reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer as one of the largest such avian fatalities in decades.

Birds that died after hitting buildings in Philadelphia in October. 
Credit…Stephen Maciejewski/Audubon

Bird populations are already imperiled by climate change, habitat loss and cats. Turning lights out at night can mitigate one more risk to their lives, experts say.

But before a city knows if a lights-out campaign will work, it first has to know how many birds it might help. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has used radar data to identify abnormal bird densities. In some cities, the approach is old-fashioned shoe leather.

Three days a week, at about 7 a.m., volunteers hit the streets of Jacksonville, Fla., peering into shrubs or searching the bases of the city’s tallest buildings. In the week of March 14, they found two warblers and a dove. The tiny bodies were put into bags and handed over to the zoo for analysis.

Then the business of forensics begins. As in any cause of death investigation, clues must be extracted from their surroundings. In the case of birds, the only certainties are flight, gravity and thin air.

Moments after a fatal impact, birds plummet to sidewalks, drop onto high-rise ledges inaccessible to the public, or sink into bushes on private land until discovered there inexplicably dead, throwing the possible answers to the who, what, when and where of their deaths into disarray.

Sometimes, stunned by the impact, they keep flying before they fall, making the place of their original blow difficult to trace. Often, cleaning crews sweep up carcasses before the volunteers can document them.

Mike Taylor, a curator at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, who works with the volunteers, said cats will also get to the birds. “We don’t know if they caught the bird, or just took advantage of this free meal that fell to the ground in front of them,” he said.

Last October in Philadelphia, an estimated 1,000 to 1,500 birds in one night flew into buildings in a radius of just over three blocks of Center City, possibly because of a low ceiling of bad weather that interfered with migrating birds from Canada, Maine, New York and elsewhere toward Central and South America, The Inquirer reported.

After the event, Audubon Mid-Atlantic, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club and two other local Audubon chapters formed a coalition to tackle the problem.

The response has been “extremely robust” among the city’s iconic properties, said Kristine A. Kiphorn, the executive director of the Building Owners and Managers Association in Philadelphia. Comcast, One and Two Liberty Place and the Wells Fargo Center are among the 30 buildings that have so far signed up to go dark this spring.

“We feel it makes ethical, ecological and economic sense,” she said.

A bird that died after crashing into a building in Philadelphia  in October.
Credit…Stephen Maciejewski/Audubon

Bird strikes against buildings have been recorded for decades in Philadelphia. The first recorded window kills date back to the 1890s, when City Hall was lit up, said Nate Rice, the ornithology collection manager at Drexel’s Academy of Natural Sciences. Dr. Rice said the academy’s database now has 823 specimens that have been identified as window strikes in Philadelphia.

“If we can generalize, say, ‘Let’s keep lights out or at a minimum during peak migration time,’ this can have an impact on wild bird populations,” he said.

Modern architecture has accelerated the problem as sky-piercing, reflective structures are illuminated at night.

Birds use stellar navigation, and twinkling lights, especially on overcast nights, can confuse them, leading them to fly in circles instead of proceeding along their route. Others drop exhausted to the ground, at risk of predators, cars or smacking into glass when they take wing again. Some crash into buildings if they see a plant in the window or a tree reflected in the glass.

Many buildings do more than flip a switch. Some use glass with patterns to help birds differentiate between open sky and a deadly, transparent wall.

In Chicago, architects have angled exteriors. In Galveston, Texas, a pulse was added to safety bulbs on tall buildings. Fort Worth’s Frost Tower turns off its light and asks tenants to do so as well, using slides in the lobby to explain why.

Every year in New York City, the twin beams of light in the tribute to 9/11 victims are turned off at peak times to help free birds that have been drawn to the lights. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology estimated that the memorial’s lights altered the migratory behavior of more than 1.1 million birds over seven nights in September.

And in St. Louis, exterior lights at the Gateway Arch landmark are turned off at night to avoid disorienting birds during migration in the first two weeks of May, when warblers and other birds fly from Canada to Central and South America.

With the help of volunteers who are canvassing for bird bodies, the local Audubon chapter is preparing to introduce a formal Lights Out program for the city.

“We wanted to see what areas of downtown are causing problems to birds,” Jean Favara, the vice president of conservation at the St. Louis Audubon Society, said. “I hope by 2024 we will have 30 to 34 buildings enrolled, and we can go from there.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/10/us/bird-migration-lights-out.html#click=https://t.co/H00LRMWT3m

Court halts funding of unwarranted Colorado mountain lion and black bear cull

wildearthguardians.org

DENVER— The U.S. District Court of Colorado has ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service violated the law by funding a Colorado Parks and Wildlife plan to kill hundreds of mountain lions and dozens of black bears without properly analyzing the risks to those animals’ populations and the rest of the environment.

In response to a lawsuit brought by conservation groups, the court ruled that the Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act by agreeing to fund the project using federal money without completing its own environmental analysis. Further, the court found the environmental analysis the Service tried to rely upon, completed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, did not adequately analyze the impacts of killing black bears and mountain lions under the plans.

“On behalf of the majority of Coloradans who support coexistence with native carnivores, WildEarth Guardians applauds the court for recognizing the substantial environmental impact that these killing ‘studies’ impose on native wildlife in the state,” said Lindsay Larris, wildlife program director at WildEarth Guardians. “These studies threatened local ecosystems by the extermination of entire populations of bears and lions in these regions, a fact that the Service completely ignored.  We hope this ruling ensures that the Service will carefully consider all funding requests for wildlife ‘studies’ long into the future.”

The multi-year plans to kill black bears and mountain lions in the Piceance Basin and Upper Arkansas River areas of Colorado were intended to artificially boost the mule deer population for hunters, where habitat had been degraded by oil and gas drilling. But overwhelming scientific evidence shows that killing native carnivores does not  boost prey populations. The killing plans were hatched and approved by Colorado Parks and Wildlife in 2016 and funded by the Service in 2017 despite overwhelming public opposition, and over the objection of leading conservation biologists’ voices.

“This ruling immediately halts the use of taxpayer dollars for the slaughter of Colorado’s mountain lions,” said Andrea Zaccardi, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “I’m so pleased that the court put a stop to this scientifically baseless study that needlessly targeted Colorado’s ecologically important, native carnivores.”

The court agreed that the Fish and Wildlife Service failed to consider the many substantial environmental harms that were likely to result from the plans, such as the harm to the local ecosystem caused by these killings and the suffering and deaths of orphaned cubs and kittens.

“Persecuting bears and mountain lions in this way is not only incredibly cruel to these highly-sentient, social beings who spend years raising their dependent young, but it is also environmentally destructive,” said Laura Smythe, a staff attorney with the Humane Society of the United States. “These inhumane wildlife killing plans left cubs orphaned, who likely died from starvation, dehydration, predation or exposure. Intensive trophy hunting and killing of mountain lions leads to increased conflicts with humans, pets and livestock. The federal government had no business funding this completely unnecessary state-sponsored slaughter.”

The Piceance Basin Plan has been completed but the Upper Arkansas River Plan is ongoing and will be halted as a result of this ruling.

Background: Started in 2017, the Upper Arkansas River Plan was approved to last nine years, during which time Colorado Parks and Wildlife would kill more than 50% of the mountain lion population in the area. Colorado expected the killing of up to 234 mountain lions would cost nearly $4 million, 75 percent of which would be federally funded with taxpayers’ money.

Mountain lions and black bears are critical to their native ecosystems. Mountain lion predation provides food for more bird and mammal scavengers than that of any other predator on the planet. Black bears’ diverse diet of fruits results in broad dispersion of seeds, and their foraging behavior creates disturbances that allow sunlight to reach plants below the forest canopy.

Mountain lion

Mountain lion. Photo by Justin Shoemaker, USFWS.

https://wildearthguardians.org/press-releases/court-halts-funding-of-unwarranted-colorado-mountain-lion-and-black-bear-cull/

Spring Migration: Ten Tips to Help Birds on Their Way

Cerulean Warblers are active during spring migration

Spring migration, one of nature’s greatest annual journeys, is underway as billions of migratory birds leave their wintering grounds and head north toward seasonal food sources and favorite nesting spots.

But this high-endurance pilgrimage isn’t without danger. Outdoor cats, poorly placed communication towers, unforgiving and — to birds — invisible glass surfaces, and pesticide-laced plants all await. Add to that an ongoing crisis of habitat loss and it’s no mystery why so many birds fail to reach their destinations during spring migration.

The good news is that all of us can take steps to make migration a little safer. Even better, many of these activities are simple, free, and require only a few minutes. To get started, have a look at our staff’s top 10 suggestions — and find the solutions that work for you.

10. Paint a Window Warning
Painting windows can help make spring migration safer for migratory birds

“Hundreds of millions of birds in the U.S. die from hitting glass every year – almost half of those on home windows. Luckily, there are many ways to make your windows safe for birds. One of my favorite methods is applying tempera paint to the outside surface of glass. Tempera is nontoxic, cheap, easy to use (and remove) and amazingly long lasting — even in rain. If you’re short on time, using a sponge is a good way to make a quick pattern. With a little more effort, you can create spring-themed designs or even small works of art depicting your favorite birds; either will help prevent collisions. Remember: Whatever kind of design you use, make sure your lines are no more than two inches apart to help smaller birds avoid collisions.”

Chris Sheppard – Bird Collisions Campaign Director

9. Support the Laws that Migratory Birds Can’t Live Without
Scarlet Tanagers are aided by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a critical bird conservation law

“The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) is one of the most important pieces of legislation affecting birds in the U.S. But a new government position asserts that the MBTA does not address unintentional harm that industrial activities cause to birds, effectively letting business off the hook. This move will have a negative impact on bird populations and hurt bird conservation, but that’s not all. It also puts our public heritage as the owners and stewards of our nation’s birds at risk. You can help protect this important law by signing ABC’s online petition.”

David Wiedenfeld – Senior Conservation Scientist

8. Protect Birds from Cats
Keeping cats constrained helps birds during spring migration

“Cats are lovable pets, but they’re also instinctive predators. One cat alone may kill up to 55 birds each year. It all adds up! So keep your cat on a leash or in an enclosure to protect migratory birds (and keep your cat safe, too). Don’t have a cat? You can still support bird-friendly practices in your community by encouraging the passage of local ordinances mandating responsible pet ownership. Learn more about other simple actions you can take to protect birds on our Cats Indoors page.”

Grant Sizemore – Director of Invasive Species Programs

7. Make Your Yard a Bird Paradise For Spring Migration
Providing food for birds is important during spring migration

“I’ve packed my quarter-acre lot in suburban Maryland with dozens of the same native plant species you might see in nearby woods. There’s a “mini meadow” of asters, goldenrods, and native grasses and a tiny woodland of native viburnums, hollies, and other berry-producing shrubs that birds love. But the most important way I support my local birdlife is by learning to love insects. Even seed-eating birds can’t live without insects, since their nestlings need protein-rich caterpillars to thrive. My yard is a “pesticide-free zone” and I prioritize plants that support the most insect species, using Douglas Tallamy’s research on plant-insect interactions as a guide. Some of them, like wild cherry , feed more than 450 species of moths and butterflies in the mid-Atlantic region.”

Clare Nielsen – Vice President of Communications

6. Communicate with Communication Tower Owners
Communciation towers can be a serious problem during spring migration

“Roughly 7 million birds die every year in North America from collisions with communication towers. Many of these deaths are caused by towers’ steady burning lights, which attract birds. The simple solution is to use flashing lights as they pose little danger to birds. But sometimes owners need to hear from concerned citizens before making the switch. Giving them a nudge is now easier with the release of the new SongbirdSaver app. The app identifies potentially dangerous communication towers near you and provides contact information for their owners. And because SongbirdSaver can pinpoint towers along common migration routes, spring is a great time to get started.”

Steve Holmer – Vice President of Policy

5. Stamp Your Approval on Spring Migration
Buying Duck Stamps is a good way to support birds during spring migration

“I purchase a Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, or “Duck Stamp,” every year to support conservation funding and support bird conservation. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 98 cents of every dollar spent purchasing Federal Duck Stamps is used to acquire and protect habitat or purchase conservation easements. These efforts support not just migratory waterfowl, but other migratory birds as well.”

Conor Marshall – Associate, Communications, Policy and Operations

4. Keep Your Woods Wild
Pileated Woodpeckers benefit when you keep your woods wild

“You can provide habitat for birds during spring migration by letting things around the house get a little messy. I have a wooded backyard, so I try to leave it as natural as possible. I let the understory grow and pull invasive plants such as Japanese stiltgrass and garlic mustard. I leave logs and fallen branches in place to shelter insects and other small critters that birds feed on.
When larger trees break or fall, I leave them be — as long as they’re not hanging over the roof. This gives snag-nesting migrants like Great Crested Flycatcher places to nest — as along with year-round residents like Eastern Screech-owl and Downy, Hairy, Pileated, and Red-bellied Woodpeckers — and is a nice source of grubs and other bird food.”

Gemma Radko – Communications and Media Manager

3. Give Beach-nesting Birds a Break
Black Skimmers need space during spring migration

“As temperatures rise, many of us begin heading to the beach. And we’re not alone: this is a critical time for several migratory species — I’m thinking of Black Skimmers, Snowy Plovers and Least Terns — that lay their eggs in the sand and are particularly vulnerable. One of the biggest challenges they face are unleashed dogs. Our team in the Gulf Coast region team has seen loose dogs eat eggs and take chicks. This is a big problem considering that nearly all of these birds have declining populations. The obvious solution is to leash dogs. As our team likes to say, ‘Bird-friendly beaches have dogs on leashes!’”

Kacy L. Ray – Gulf Conservation Program Manager

2. Fuel a Hungry Hummingbird
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds arrived during spring migration

“Put out those hummingbird feeders during spring migration — the hummers are arriving. Be sure to use a mixture of four parts water to one part sugar. And do without the dye: Red dyes serve no purpose. Most hummingbird feeders already have enough color on them to attract hummingbirds, and, even worse, these dyes contain petroleum that may be harmful to hummingbirds. Don’t forget to change the mixture often to be sure it’s fresh and safe for those super-charged flying jewels.”

EJ Williams – Vice President, Migratory Birds & Habitats

1. Inspire a Future Bird Conservationist
Children with ducks

“I have younger nieces and nephews in Wisconsin, and when I visit them during spring migration, I like to make sure they get outside, where I can introduce them to birds: Mr. Blue Jay. Mr. Cardinal, Mrs. Common Yellowthroat. Introducing birds to kids at a young age can instill a desire to explore the natural world. And that’s only one benefit. It also helps children bond with wildlife and develop an environmental ethic that will, hopefully, remain with them for the rest of their lives. I’m hoping one of my nieces or nephews will be the John Muir of 2030!”

Andrew Rothman – Migratory Bird Program Director

https://abcbirds.org/ten-tips-spring-migration

Petition: Kill California’s Ivory Market, Save Endangered Elephants

Every 15 minutes, an elephant is killed for its tusks. The entire wild species could go extinct as early as 2025. The ivory market is to blame.

President Obama has a plan. But there are loopholes. Currently, California ivory dealers can still legally sell elephant ivory because of one loophole: intentional mislabeling. Elephant ivory is being passed off as wooly mammoth, cow bone, etc.

The United States and California matter.

After China, the United States is the second largest ivory consumer.

After New York, California — particularly Los Angeles and San Francisco — has the second largest ivory market in the country. California also facilities the international export of ivory.

According to a Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) press release, http://www.nrdc.org/media/2015/150107a.asp investigations revealed that there are 100 ivory vendors and the Bay Area sells 1,200 ivory items.And this isn’t exactly legal ivory.

Los Angeles’ ivory:

— Between 77 – 90 percent of the ivory seen was likely illegal under California law

— Between 47 – 60 percent could have been illegal under federal law

San Francisco’s ivory:

— Roughly 80 percent of the ivory was likely illegal under California law

— 52 percent could have been illegal under federal law

But there’s a way to close the loophole.

San Diego’s Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins has proposed Assembly Bill 96 — the bill would ban all sales of material resembling ivory animals,  including: elephants, wooly mammoths, wart hogs and whales. Atkins believes we can save thousands of elephants (and endangered rhinos, for that matter) by closing this loophole and closing the ivory market in California for good.

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http://linkis.com/thepetitionsite.com/4wVEQ