“Lights Out Toronto” is a public awareness campaign to reduce migratory bird deaths by encouraging residents and businesses to turn off unnecessary lights during migratory season.

In Toronto, the spring migration occurs between mid-March and the beginning of June. In fall, migration occurs from mid-August to the beginning of November.

During migration seasons, millions of birds travel through our city. Situated on the shoreline of Lake Ontario, and at the convergence of two major flyways, the Toronto area serves as an important rest stop for migrating birds, many of whom fly thousands of kilometers between their overwintering sites and their summer breeding grounds.

Most birds migrate at night, guiding themselves with natural cues from the moon and stars. Night-migrating birds are drawn by city lights into urban areas where they often fatally collide with building windows that they cannot see.

Why We Should Care

Many of North America’s migratory bird species are facing significant population decline. Habitat loss, pesticide use, hunting by cats, climate change and collision with buildings are endangering the survival of countless migratory birds. Turning off lights is an easy way for businesses and residents to make Toronto a safer place for migratory birds.

The beauty and diversity of birds contributes greatly to our experience of nature. Birds are also essential to a healthy environment: they consume billions of insects daily (including mosquitoes), pollinate plants and disperse seeds. They contribute to our economy since birdwatching is a very popular leisure activity. By making the city safer for migratory birds, we will be enhancing the natural biodiversity of our urban environment.

Learn about how you can help to protect migratory birds.

Turning off lights creates a safer environment for migratory birds. It also decreases energy use and costs, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and benefits other types of wildlife that are disturbed by night lighting.

To make our city safer for migrating birds:

  • Building owners, managers and tenants can turn off lights during the night in unused spaces or on unoccupied floors.
  • Building owners, managers and tenants can turn off exterior floodlights during bird migration seasons.
  • Workers can use task lighting at desks and turn off ceiling lights near windows.

Buildings can be made more safe for migratory birds by improving the design of lighting and glass features. In general, outdoor lighting should be directed downwards and should minimize spillage beyond the area that needs to be lit. Window shades can reduce light spillage from essential indoor lighting. Glass features can be made more visible to birds with surface treatments to adjust transparency and reduce reflectivity.

Details about best practices to reduce bird collisions are found in Toronto’s Best Practices for Bird-Friendly Glass and Best Practices for Effective Lighting.

If you see that a bird has collided with a window:

  • Place the bird inside a cardboard box or unwaxed paper bag with tissue to give the bird a perching spot.
  • Minimize how much you handle the bird; no more than necessary.
  • Refrain from giving the bird food or water.
  • Contact the Toronto Wildlife Centre using their request for assistance form.
  • Wash your hands after handling the bird.
  • For more details about helping injured birds, see information from FLAP Canada.

Since 2006, Toronto has been a leader in work to protect migratory birds.

Highlights of the city’s actions include:

  • City Council direction for all City facilities to turn the lights off at night during migratory seasons.
  • Development and implementation of “Bird-Friendly Development Guidelines” to make buildings less dangerous to birds, making Toronto the first North American city to take this action.
  • Inclusion of required design measures for lighting features and glass that reduce risk to migratory birds in the Toronto Green Standard for new development in the city.

The City has produced two detailed documents that support requirements in the Toronto Green Standard to deter bird collisions and reduce light pollution: