Travis County Goes Lights Out

for Migratory Birds

Golden Cheeked Warbler / Courtesy of Fort Hood / Flickr

Lights Out Texas is a campaign of education, awareness, and action that focuses on turning out lights at night during the spring and fall migrations to help protect the billions of migratory birds that fly over Texas annually. The goal of Lights Out Texas is to reduce migratory bird mortality by increasing statewide participation at the business, local official, municipal, and community levels, as well as collecting and reporting data.

In Spring 2021, the Travis County Commissioners Court voted to turn off all non-essential lights in County buildings in downtown Austin during the peak of spring migration. The resolution also encouraged Travis County residents and businesses to turn off some of their lights to help save birds’ lives. Travis County said the effort had the added benefit of helping the community conserve electricity as Earth Day approached. It said lowering energy consumption aligns with the county’s Climate Action Plan and Resolution on Net Zero Carbon Emissions. Read more in this article from KVUE and read a full recap of Lights Out Texas efforts in Spring 2021.

Fall 2021 Lights Out Resolution

On August 10, Travis County issued another resolution, committing to turning off non-essential lights in its downtown buildings during all spring and fall bird migration seasons moving forward. They are exploring the possibility of expanding this resolution to all of their buildings in Travis County. Read more about the Lights Out Resolution from this recent article from the Austin Monitor or download the full text of the resolution from Travis County here.

This fall we encourage all Texans to turn off non-essential lights at night from 11 pm – 6 am during the fall migration period of August 15 – November 30, and where conflicts apply, prioritize lights out during the critical peak fall migration period from September 5 to October 29.

Every light turned out at night helps save migrating birds by reducing collisions with brightly lit buildings. As an added bonus, turning off non-essential lights also saves energy and money for cities, local businesses, and homeowners!

“Turning out the lights will help protect migrating birds, including the endangered golden-cheeked warblers that breed in the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve and elsewhere in Central Texas. In addition, an important migratory corridor runs through Texas, so this effort will help protect birds coming from all across the country,” said Johanna Arendt, Community Liaison with Travis County Natural Resources.

Golden-cheeked Warbler at the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve. Photo: Tom Hausler
Golden-cheeked Warbler at the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve. Photo: Tom Hausler

Travis County’s Facilities Management Department (FMD) is implementing the following practices where feasible to reduce non-essential lighting during the designated periods.

  • Travis County’s Facilities Management Department (FMD) is implementing the following practices to ensure their non-essential lighting is off during the designated periods.
  • The Facilities Management Department (FMD) has changed the custodians’ work schedule to end at 11:00 PM
  • Custodians working on cleaning floors make sure the lights are off before they proceed to the next floor
  • FMD security staff, the night patrol shift, walks the buildings on the inside to make sure it is secure and at the same time to turn off any lights that have been left on
  • FMD security monitors cameras on all Travis County buildings to report any lights that are on after 11:00 PM
  • FMD set the HMS Courthouse Exterior lighting timer so that non-essential lights will be turned off at 10:00 PM during the critical bird migration period
  • For the record and control, the night shift security staff takes photos of our buildings to document that the lights are off
  • If any lights are on in a particular office or floor after 11:00 PM as shown by the photos, FMD will investigate the light sensor control or switch control in that office or floor to make sure that the lighting system is working
  • FMD performs light sensor controls and switch control checks to make sure that they are functioning properly
    After 11:00 PM, all 11 of the County’s downtown buildings’ lights should be off except for emergency lights.

Learn More

About Travis County

Travis County is located in Central Texas on the eastern edge of the Edwards Plateau, and is divided north to south by the Balcones Escarpment. Home to the majority of the city of Austin, Travis County encompasses both dense urban areas and wide open spaces, especially to the west and east. With a population of over 1.2 million, it is the fifth largest county in Texas, and one of the fastest growing communities in the country.