Wrapping up Fall Migration 2021

By Kathy Sweezey, Bird-Friendly Communities Program Manager

The days are getting shorter, the weather is getting cooler, and the migratory birds have moved on to their winter homes. Fall migration runs from mid-August through November each year with millions of birds passing through the greater Houston area. Some birds like the Ruby-throated Hummingbird can travel over 2,000 miles to their wintering locations in South and Central America. If the long flight wasn’t bad enough, migratory birds face additional challenges as they navigate major cities like Houston.

Most migratory birds in North America fly at night. In 2017, Houston Audubon began the Lights Out for Birds Program after a large collision event in Galveston. In 2020, we partnered with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Texan By Nature, and organizations across the state to expand our program into Lights Out Texas! This program encourages individuals, organizations, companies, building managers, and cities to turn their non-essential, exterior lights off throughout spring and fall migrations, with extra emphasis on turning out these lights during peak migration. We issued 14 alerts throughout the fall for high migratory nights thanks to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Colorado State University’s BirdCast bird migration forecast maps. In an effort to measure the success of the Lights Out Texas program and provide data for future research, Houston Audubon began a collision monitoring program in 2021 carried out by an outstanding group of community science volunteers. For fall migration, the collision monitoring program ran for 50 survey days during peak migration with 19 volunteers observing 20 different species. Data obtained from this program directly supports studies designed to save migratory birds and prevent future collisions. Find out more about the collision monitoring program and learn how to volunteer by emailing Kathy Sweezey at ksweezey@houstonaudubon.org.

Pictured: A stunned ovenbird observed in Houston during a collision monitoring survey.

While fall migration is winding down to an end, our work protecting the birds is never over! You can help both migratory and non-migratory birds by following the bird-friendly community basics. Keeping cats indoors, providing food and shelter for birds, and planting native plants are all ways that you can help birds in our community throughout the year.

Wishing everyone a safe holiday season wherever you are wintering, and we look forward to seeing everyone for spring migration!

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