It has been estimated that 7,000,000 birds die each year in North America by colliding with broadcast and cell towers. These birds – mostly night-flying songbirds on migration are either attracted to, or disoriented by, the tower lighting systems, especially in conditions when night skies are overcast or foggy.
A key factor in bird mortality at towers is height, with towers 350 feet or more in height posing the greatest threat. Elimination of outdated, non-flashing red lights on these tall towers also provides a substantial benefit to tower operators because they reduce electricity consumption. Hundreds of tall towers across the U.S. have already updated their lighting systems to reduce bird collisions and to reduce operating costs. The change was urged by the Federal Communications Commission, which launched a policy encouraging tower operators to adopt bird-friendly and energy-saving lighting configurations.
Now, a new website provides a way to participate in a solution. With “Songbird Saver,” observers can enter a zip code or use the map feature to find tall towers in their area, then send a request to the tower’s operator to turn off or replace any steady-burning red lights that may attract birds.
The Federal Aviation Administration which regulates airline safety has also studied the safety issues, and is recommending this lighting change which can reduce bird mortality by an estimated 70 percent. You can participate, provide feedback, and be part of an effort that can save birds in your community. (Some of the data on the website – including tower operators’ e-mail addresses – may be out of date. If you receive an email bounce-back from a tower operator, or if no email address is available, you can always print and mail a letter.) It’s best to start now, well before spring migration and in time to give the operators the opportunity to make lighting changes.
“We are seeing great progress and thank the operators of the 700+ towers that have updated their lighting to help reduce mortality of birds,” said Christine Sheppard of American Bird Conservancy’s Bird Collisions Program. “But there are still tens of thousands of tall towers across the U.S. with outdated lights. We are asking all tower operators to make this cost-saving and life-saving switch to help save migratory birds.”
You can access the Songbird Saver site here: https://www.songbirdsaver.org/copy-of-songbirdsaver-app