Wednesday, March 26, 2008

San Francisco might help migrating birds inadvertently

From today's San Francisco Chronicle:

San Francisco's picturesque skyline would be dark at night under a first-in-the-nation law proposed Tuesday that would mandate all skyscrapers turn off nonemergency lights after work hours.

Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin said his measure would reduce the energy wasted in the city's downtown.

"Anyone who has passed through our Financial District after dark knows that many large financial buildings in the downtown keep their lights on throughout the night even when there is not work or janitorial service going on," Peskin said.
The proposed law says businesses that do not comply would receive fines. I'm not sure that's a good route, because it creates more bureaucracy to enforce the law.

If, however, more skyscrapers turn off more lights between, say, 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. on the upper floors, then perhaps fewer migrating birds will die from collisions with skyscrapers or exhaustion.

Consider this important? Do something.

Share details about Fatal Light Awareness Program with Peskin and Ken Cleaveland, director of government and public affairs for the Building Owners and Managers Association of San Francisco. The program's website discusses urban threats to birds, with a section on light attraction:

Birds migrating at night are strongly attracted to, or at least trapped by, sources of artificial light, particularly during periods of inclement weather. Approaching the lights of lighthouses, floodlit obstacles, ceilometers (light beams generally used at airports to determine the altitude of cloud cover), communication towers, or lighted tall buildings, they become vulnerable to collisions with the structures themselves. If collision is avoided, birds are still at risk of death or injury. Once inside a beam of light, birds are reluctant to fly out of the lighted area into the dark, and often continue to flap around in the beam of light until they drop to the ground with exhaustion. A secondary threat resulting from their aggregation at lighted structures is their increased vulnerability to predation.
Also consider asking Audubon California and Golden Gate Audubon Society what they're doing, if anything, related to this proposal. The FLAP website doesn't show San Francisco as a city with a FLAP program; perhaps the site is outdated, and perhaps birders have taken the iniative to address the skyscrapers' effects on migrating birds. If they haven't taken that initiative, now's a good time.

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