Lights Out! Asheville: Reducing Light Pollution to Benefit Birds and the Environment

Many birds migrate at night using natural light cues like the moon and stars. Unfortunately, light pollution emitted from urban centers, like the city of Asheville, disrupt migratory birds along their nighttime journeys.

Brightly lit buildings draw birds towards cities, making them susceptible to the many lethal threats posed by the human-built environment (e.g., fatal window collisions, predation, etc). From our best current scientific understanding, hundreds of millions of birds die in the U.S. every year because of this. Fortunately, a simple thing like turning out lights can help birds navigate our environment and protect them from unnecessary harm. A landmark study conducted by the Field Museum in Chicago showed that by turning the lights off in one building, the number of birds killed there dropped by over 80 percent.

The city of Asheville exists along a major migratory path for birds – the Appalachian Mountains.


As part of the greater Atlantic Flyway, our mountains serve as a migration route for hundreds of species of birds, many of which are declining in population. On a peak migration night during the Spring or Fall, over 50,000 birds pass over Asheville every hour.

A paper published by Horton et. al. in 2019 placed the City of Asheville among the top 125 significant cities in the United States that produce migration-disruption light pollution during both the spring and fall migratory seasons. Mayor Manheimer recently signed a proclamation that designates March-May and September-November as “Migratory Bird Awareness Months,” and has entrusted Blue Ridge Audubon Chapter and the Coalition for a Bird-Friendly Asheville to create a Lights Out program that is supported by the Asheville residential and business community.

How can you help? Please participate in Lights Out by encouraging people to do the following:

  • Turn off unnecessary indoor and outdoor lighting (especially near the tops of buildings)
  • Put necessary lighting on timers or use motion sensors
  • Use warmer-temperature LED lighting in outdoor fixtures
  • Make sure external lighting is down shielded
  • Dim or extinguish lobby or atrium lighting
  • Close blinds or curtains at night to prevent light leakage

It is particularly important to take these measures between the hours of midnight and sunrise (when most night migrants are flying) and during spring and fall migration periods (March-May and September-November).

In addition to helping birds, these efforts have the additional benefits of reducing your energy usage, shrinking your carbon footprint, and saving money.

Sign the Lights Out! pledge and gain community recognition for your commitment to Lights Out! Asheville.