Most birds migrate at night. They have been doing this for eons, as a nighttime sky typically means calmer air space and fewer predators. Nocturnally migrating birds include ducks and geese, plovers and sandpipers, and songbirds of all kinds. These birds may travel thousands of miles between their breeding and wintering grounds during spring and fall migration.
However, the nighttime sky is becoming increasingly polluted by artificial light. This light pollution poses a significant threat to migrating birds, causing confusion and disorientation and often leading to fatal collisions with buildings. Many major cities and some rural areas are participating in “Lights Out” initiatives, dimming building lights during peak periods of spring and fall migration. Public awareness is growing but there is still a long way to go.
The impact of light pollution on migrating birds will be the focus of the coming year’s World Migratory Bird Day, the only international education program that celebrates the migration of hundreds of bird species between their summer nesting habitats in the United States and Canada and their wintering grounds in Mexico, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
Although World Migratory Bird Day is traditionally celebrated on the second Saturdays of May and October to coincide with the spring and fall migration of many species, festivals and other events are held throughout the year. In other words, every day is bird day, and event hosts are encouraged to celebrate on whatever date works best for their communities.
More information will become available in the coming weeks, including downloadable educational materials in English and Spanish and instructions for registering your official World Migratory Bird Day event. Stay tuned!