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Zoo News Blog

Lights Out for Wildlife

Meet Houston Zoo’s Bird-Saving Campaign Committee!

Dominica Bruni, Elyse Chu, Bryce Cruise, Alessandra Fernandez, Herbert He, Maya Ortiz, Rachael Rivas, Annie Watts, and Jake WolffWe are a group of teens in the Zoo Crew teen program who are passionate about birds and helping to save them in the wild and we want you to join us in our efforts to protect native birds this migration season.

Birds are integral to the health of ecosystems across the Western hemisphere and provide important services such as seed dispersal, insect control, and often contribute to pollination for a variety of plants. (Many of Texas’ beautiful wildflower species are pollinated by birds.)

Here in Houston, we are in a unique situation pertaining to migration, situated right between the Mississippi and Central Flyways, Houston and the Gulf Coast as a whole are a diversity hotspot as birds fly to their final destinations. Every year over 700 species use the two flyways and on April 28, during peak migration season, over 11 million birds migrated just through Harris County.
See how many birds are migrating tonight!

Photo courtesy of Ducks Unlimited Canada.

What’s the Problem?
Birds often migrate at night and although the city of Houston is known for its wonderful skyline, it can often cause major issues for the migratory bird population. Just four years ago the Cornell Lab of Ornithology listed Houston as the second most dangerous city for birds during spring and fall migration in the US, only outdone by Chicago. Birds rely heavily on their natural sense of direction to migrate and often the bright lights of the city at night can mimic the stars in the sky and disorient birds, leading to collisions with buildings. Many sources place the number of birds that die of collisions to be around a billion a year. But, there are things you can do to save birds in the wild!

What Can You Do?

Get Lights Out Certified
One of the easiest things you can do to support migratory birds is to certify your home or workplace as a part of the Lights Out for Wildlife Campaign. In order to get certified all you have to do is commit to taking at least one step to protect migratory birds during migration season. These steps range from something as easy as closing your curtains at night all the way to turning off all non-essential lights at night from 11pm to 6am during the migration seasons of March-May and September-November. You can also join the many corporate and office buildings that have gone lights-out including Houston’s very own town hall.

Create Wildlife-Friendly Spaces
Birds, similarly to butterflies and other migrating species, need places to stop and recuperate. One of our Bird-Saving Campaign Committee members, Annie, has implemented wildlife-friendly spaces into her home by planting a garden. Planting gardens, especially with native plants, offers birds and other animals an opportunity to rest and eat on their journeys.

Photos from Zoo Crew Annie’s wildlife-friendly garden.

Earlier this month, we celebrated World Migratory Bird Day here at Houston Zoo. The Bird-Saving Campaign Committee hosted some fun bird themed activities around the Kathrine G. McGovern Texas Wetlands exhibit and shared ways that guests can participate in Lights Out for Wildlife and protect migratory birds this spring.

Our goal was to show the importance of migratory birds and how vital it is that we take steps in our own lives to protect them. The Houston Zoo’s Bird-Saving Campaign is proud to advocate for these wonderful native species and we hope to have more Houstonians join us in doing the same in their everyday lives.