New York State agencies have announced two initiatives designed to protect and foster increased appreciation for birds – a new ‘Lights Out’ initiative to help protect migrating birds as they navigate night skies, and the launch of the Capital Region segment of the New York State Birding Trail to highlight the State’s world-class and wide-ranging birding opportunities.
State buildings participating in Lights Out will keep non-essential outdoor lighting from affecting the ability of birds to migrate successfully, both in the Capital Region and throughout New York.
Many species of shorebirds and songbirds rely on constellations to help them navigate to and from their summer breeding grounds through the State. Excessive outdoor lighting, especially in adverse weather conditions, can cause these migrating birds to become disoriented, a phenomenon known as fatal light attraction. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it has led to collisions with windows, walls, floodlights, or the ground and the death of an estimated 500 million to one billion birds annually in the United States.
Lights Out directs State-owned and managed buildings to turn off non-essential outdoor lighting from 11 pm to dawn during the spring migration through May 31st and also during the peak fall migration, August 15th through November 15th. State agencies will also be encouraged to draw blinds, when possible, and turn off non-essential indoor lighting during Lights Out times. In addition to benefiting migrating birds, Lights Out promotes sustainability and provides a cost-savings to the State.
In addition, DEC announced the grand opening of the Capital Region segment of the New York State Birding Trail, comprised of 29 locations throughout five counties, to provide a variety of quality birding experiences for New Yorkers and visitors to enjoy birdwatching. The trail is managed by DEC in collaboration with partners including the State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. The Statewide trail includes promoted birding locations that can be accessed by car or public transportation, providing an inclusive experience for all visitors to enjoy birds amid beautiful natural settings with little or no cost or investment in equipment.
New segments of the Birding Trail are opened in a phased approach. DEC announced the New York City trail segment in October 2021, Greater Niagara in February 2022, Long Island in March 2022, Hudson Valley last month, and Central-Finger Lakes earlier in May, totaling more than 180 birding locations. Once finished, the Statewide Birding Trail will provide birding opportunities for everyone, regardless of age, ability, identity, or background, across New York State.
To promote the trail as an inclusive experience for all, DEC and partners are working to select sites that are welcoming and accessible by public transportation. Five of the Capital Region Birding Trail locations will be participating in this summer’s Nature Bus. The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy (MHLC), the Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA), and local project partners have come together again to offer this free Saturday CDTA Nature Bus service to connect City of Albany residents to eight natural spaces in and around Albany. The service will start Saturday, May 28th, and run through Saturday, September 24th. For more information, go to the Nature Bus website.
DEC also continues to solicit input from a wide range of New Yorkers and organizations that represent Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities and is making information available in both English and Spanish. Bird walks will be held in collaboration with organizations working with BIPOC communities.
The New York State Birding Trail map is available at DEC’s I Bird NY webpage and provides valuable information on each site such as location, available amenities, species likely to be seen, directions, and more. Additional information on birding, educational and interpretive information, is also available. Digital information on the Birding Trail will be updated periodically, so budding outdoor enthusiasts are encouraged to check back often.
In addition to State-owned and managed locations for the Birding Trail, publicly and privately managed sites can complete a simple self-nomination process to be considered for inclusion on the trail. Sites all meet criteria to help ensure a positive experience for visitors throughout the state. Additionally, each site will post signage noting it as an official location on the birding trail. For information on the nomination process, see DEC’s I Bird NY webpage.
DEC encourages birding enthusiasts to visit I Bird NY for more information on where and how to observe birds, upcoming bird walks, a downloadable Beginner’s Guide to Birding, and additional resources.
Photo of bird watcher by DEC.