WashU works to protect migrating birds

Employees are encouraged to close blinds, turn off lights

To protect migrating birds passing through the St. Louis region in late April and May, Washington University in St. Louis is partnering with the Lights Out Heartland initiative to curb light pollution. 

Swainson's thrush
Swainson’s Thrush typically migrate at night. (Photo: Shutterstock)

The Office of Sustainability has worked with the Washington University Police Department and Facilities Planning & Management to turn off unnecessary lights and use shields to point light downward. In addition, the Office of Sustainability is encouraging employees to close blinds in the evening and to turn off building lights when not in use. Employees should contact Facilities to determine if lights that remain on all night could be turned off or placed on a schedule. 

“The good news here is that we have confirmed that, for the most part, WashU’s campus has exemplary nighttime lighting, both from wildlife and safety perspectives,” said Cassie Hage, assistant director of the Office of Sustainability. “By implementing the suggested changes and continuing to evaluate light pollution, we can provide regional leadership and demonstrate how campuses can operate 24/7 beautifully and safely while balancing the needs of the natural world.”

WashU has taken additional steps to protect migrating and native birds. The university’s LEED-certified buildings have bird-friendly features such as window treatments and light fixtures that reduce light pollution. And campus landscapes are designed to serve as bird-friendly habitats. 

An estimated 600 million birds die annually during the peak migration periods of late April and May and September and October, according to Smithsonian researchers. And St. Louis is one of the most dangerous cities for migrating birds, which typically travel at night and can be disoriented by light pollution, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

To learn more, visit the Office of Sustainability website.

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