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The Danger of City Lights to Migrating birds

Night-migrating birds use the moon and the stars as navigational tools along their migration routes. This behavior naturally draws night-migrating birds to the bright lights in the urban centers along their journey.

In these unfamiliar, urban environments, night-migrating birds often fatally collide with tall, lit buildings. Artificial light is especially confusing to birds on foggy or rainy nights, or when cloud cover is low and the birds fly at lower altitudes.

birds that survive a nighttime collision are still in danger of colliding with buildings during the day as they try to escape the city. Shiny windows and building exteriors reflect the sky, clouds and trees and give migratory birds the illusion of safe passage. To read more about the daytime collision issue, click here.

Colliding with buildings is a leading cause of death for migratory birds, second only to habitat loss. Bird biologists estimate that 1 to 10 birds will hit each building, each year, in North America alone.

In Toronto, that amounts to between 1 to 10 million migrating birds lost every year.

The “Lights Out Toronto!” Initiative

In April 2006, the Fatal Light Awareness Program in collaboration with the City of Toronto and other stakeholders launched Lights Out Toronto! (LOT!) -- an ongoing awareness campaign aimed at promoting bird conservation and energy conservation, especially during each migration season.

Educational brochures and posters are distributed and installed annually in high-traffic public areas, including: transit vehicles, elevators, lobbies, bus shelters, public recycling bins and garbage receptacles, and along public walkways.

The goal of LOT! is to get lights turned out at night, in both city-owned and privately-owned buildings, and reduce migratory bird deaths.

LOT! is supported by over a dozen community partners, including non-profit environmental organizations and business and government agencies.

To learn more, visit the City of Toronto‘s Lights Out! webpage.

Toronto’s Migratory Bird Protection Policies

The LOT! campaign is part of the Migratory Bird Protection policies adopted by Toronto’s City Council in 2006. These policies include the Bird-Friendly Development Guidelines which earned Toronto’s City Planning department the Excellence in Planning Award from the Ontario Professional Planning Institute in 2008.

In 2010, the City launched the Toronto Green Standard, which requires that bird-friendly elements be incorporated into almost all new development in Toronto. With this initiative, Toronto became the first city in the world to mandate bird-friendly standards.

Save Migratory birds, Energy and Money -- Lights Out!

Turning lights out saves birds, energy and money, and reduces light pollution and CO2 emissions. These direct benefits result in a healthier environment for both humans and wildlife.

  • Building owners, managers, and tenants can help to make their buildings more bird-friendly by turning off lights at night on all unoccupied floors and in unused spaces.
  • When you work late, use task lighting at your work station instead of overhead lights.
  • Turn off ceiling lights closest to windows.
  • Close window curtains and blinds.
  • Turn off all exterior floodlights during bird migration seasons.
  • Turn off unnecessary lighting at your home.
  • Report a fallen bird at your home or workplace.

If you have a question or a comment, or if you need to report a fallen bird, please call us at 416-366-3527 or email us at