Bird-Friendly Communities

Lights Out FAQ

Learn more about how to participate in the Lights Out program

It’s easy to participate in Lights Out. We invite you to join our effort by filling out this Participation Form.

What can I do?

  • Exterior decorative lighting OFF
  • Interior lights OFF especially on upper floors
  • Lobby or atrium lighting DIM or OFF

When should I do the above suggestions?

  • Between midnight and dawn
  • Spring: March 15 to May 31
  • Fall: August 15 to October 31

How does Lights Out work?
Lights Out is a voluntary program where building owners, managers and tenants work together to ensure that all unnecessary lighting is turned off during Lights Out dates and times.

Other Lights Out benefits
Besides saving birds, the Lights Out program saves a considerable amount of energy and reduces pollution by reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The savings for a building can be significant. One participating building in the Toronto Lights Out program reported a savings of more than $200,000 in 2006.

Won’t a darkened city be unsafe?
Not at all. Lights Out cities don’t go completely dark by any means. Lights Out focuses on dimming or extinguishing extraneous lights coming from buildings, particularly in the upper stories. This includes the bright, decorative lighting that defines the building top, as well as interior office lights that aren’t being used. Street-level lights, though preferably down-shielded, and airplane warning lights are not affected.

While many buildings may choose to alter their lighting practices year round, Lights Out for birds is technically in effect during key migration periods late at night. This usually means about 10 weeks in spring and 10 more in the fall, between the hours of midnight and daylight.

How do we know that dimming or turning off lights can help?
Turning off unnecessary lights in buildings has been shown to reduce the number of birds attracted to or confused by illumination. Since Chicago buildings began dimming or turning off lights, many more birds are navigating through the city successfully. In fact, at one building where records have been kept for many years, mortality decreased by 80 percent when lights were turned off. More and more cities are starting programs and also compiling data on bird mortality.

What do building owners get out of participating?
A Lights Out program leads to real energy savings, which translates directly to real cost savings. Participating buildings save birds, save money and save energy while reducing carbon emissions. Many buildings are also interested in certification through the LEED system — a “green” rating system for buildings, indicating Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Building owners, managers, employees and tenants also take pride in their participation in Lights Out. There is really no downside to Lights Out.

Still have questions? Please email us. 

Back to the Lights Out program home page. 

How you can help, right now