Denver, CO

Proclamation urges Denver to extinguish lights for migrating birds

David Heitz

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By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver

(Denver, Colo.) The Denver City Council will consider Monday proclaiming April as "Lights Out for Bird Migration" month.

A proclamation sponsored by Councilmember Paul Kashmann says, "Migrating birds are accustomed to dark nights, (and) the artificial lights of suburbia and downtown Denver attract birds to windows and walls, leaving them dead, wounded, or trapped in a maze of invisible glass."

The proclamation credits birds for beautifying Denver. "Birds spread seeds of hawthornes that encircle the big blue bear of the Convention Center, pollinate the Scarlett gilia that energize the red eyes of Blucifer, and bring nutrients to the flower beds of Denver Botanic Gardens."

Zach Hutchinson, community services coordinator for Audubon Rockies, offers a little-known fact in a news release. "To avoid predators and take advantage of calmer air, 80 percent of migratory birds migrate at night."

Light pollution hazardous

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The Denver proclamation explains the hazards of light pollution to birds. "Light pollution worsens as Denver grows, people and other species of animals are negatively impacted by bright night lights; and the Lights Out Denver program is voluntary and encourages businesses and community members to turn off all non-essential exterior lights to reduce light pollution so as to provide safer, natural migration routes for birds."

The proclamation waxes eloquent about the birds that fly across Denver's blue skies. "Each May, millions of birds migrate through Denver, nest in our parks, and serenade our morning walks. By day, birds like the American Avocet wade through the shoreline of Barnum Lake, and by moonlight, the Nightjar hunts insects overhead Denverites as they walk the downtown streets."

State hosts 450 species of migratory birds

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The State of Colorado issued a similar proclamation Thursday. The state document reads, "Colorado ranks among the top ten states with the biggest bird lists, with more than 400 species of birds calling it home and 450 migrating through the Central Migration Flyway, including the Centennial State, and each spring and fall, Colorado witnesses the movements of millions of birds, like the Burrowing Owl navigating through the star-lit skies of the eastern grasslands, and the Bullock's Oriole steer past the windows and lights of the Front Range."

Artificial light confuses birds

According to the state proclamation, artificial light confuses birds at night, so some crash into windows and walls. They often circle the light, becoming "weak and vulnerable during their arduous journeys."

The Colorado chapter of the International Dark-Sky Association, Audubon Rockies, and Denver Audubon partnered to create Lights Out Colorado, a statewide awareness campaign. On the campaign's website, Coloradans can take a pledge to help migratory birds, learn techniques for shielding lights, and find resources.

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I have been in the news business more than 30 years, spending much of my career at some of the best local newspapers in the country. Today, I report on Denver City Hall, homelessness and other topics for NewsBreak, much like I did in my twenties covering Newport Beach, Calif. for the Daily Pilot. I consider myself a lucky guy to still be doing what I love after so many years.

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