Migrating Birds Flocking to 9/11 Tribute Lights in Potential Danger, finds Study

Published Date : Oct 03, 2017

The Tribute in Light installation that shines two powerful blue beams up from lower Manhattan calls to mind solemn memories of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but for migrating birds, it could be a possibly deadly attraction. The 88 searchlights placed close to the World Trade Center site that creates two vertical light columns in remembrance of the September 11, 2011 attacks are part of the art installation by the Municipal Art Society. A scientific study published Monday has brought to notice the potentially fatal consequences of the twin blue beams on the survival of migrating birds.

Scientists Quantified Changes in Bird Behavior during Interludes of Darkness

The annual light display has attracted thousands of birds that waste their energy in calling and circling and risk capture by predators and collision with buildings, according to researchers authoring a seven-year study at National September 11 Memorial and Museum. In 2015, birds within a distance of 0.3 miles from the tribute site increased from 500 to 15,700 in nearly 30 minutes after the lights were turned on. However, it had taken them a few minutes to continue on their way where they were heading to when the lights were turned off.

As per New York City Audubon’s Susan Elbin, coauthoring alongside Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Oxford University researchers, artificial light at night could be an added danger for migrating birds. Researchers have not estimated an exact count of deceased birds influenced by the light beams of the tribute over seven years, but they could be over a million, according to the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Following the 2002 established protocol to protect migrating birds, the tribute lights are turned off for 20 minutes whenever an over 1,000 birds are seen flying riskily low or circling with recurrent calling.