Pretty Lights Save 100,000 Birds

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image by Philips Habitat Lighting /

How many migrating birds could we save by changing some lightbulbs?

It sounds like the makings of a dorky ornithology joke. But the punch line is serious business: According to Conservation magazine (April-June 2009), the simple task of screwing in a few new bulbs could save hundreds of thousands of birds.

European researchers recently sought to stem the mortality rate of birds migrating over the North Sea, where lights from oil and gas rigs can distract and disorient the fair-feathered travelers. After finding that blue light and green light are much less disconcerting to birds than the red and white lights favored by these sites, the researchers worked with a Dutch oil and gas company to swap them out.

Blue light proved difficult for night-shift workers, Conservation reports, so new lights were developed “around a spectrum that includes lots of green and just a little red, which ensures that workers can see emergency equipment if they need it.” * So far the experiment is going well: “Workers seem to be happy, and the number of migratory birds lingering near the rig has been cut to somewhere between one-half and one-tenth the original number.” Eventually, the lights could be subbed in on other platforms in the North Sea and beyond, including other bird-unfriendly places like airports and highways.

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