Our Mission

Bird Safe Hampton Roads is a partnership led by the Cape Henry Audubon Society with multiple organizations and concerned community members working to make Hampton Roads safer for birds that live in our area or pass through during the annual spring and fall migrations. The particular focus of this effort is to reduce hazards caused by urban and suburban development such as disorientation by artificial lighting, building and window collisions, and habitat encroachment.

Spring 2024 Report

At the May Cape Henry Audubon Society (CHAS) monthly meeting Pat Scanlon from CHAS, Rogard Ross from the Friends of Indian River, Michelle Lewis from the Virginia Zoo, and Victoria Dunch from the Elizabeth River Project (ERP), led a panel discussion on our Bird Safe/Lights Out campaign.  This spring was our first migratory season of promoting this campaign and our initial target area was downtown Norfolk.  We reached out to leasing agents and building owners and tried to use the initial phone call as the most important way to convey our message and at let them know about our mission.  We have put up flyers, introduced the campaign to businesses owners, and handed out cards to call if they find an injured or dead bird. We've also started a partnership with the Downtown Norfolk Council, presented at one of spring meetings, and are trying to work with their Public Service Ambassadors to find injured birds and get them to rehabbers. The good news is that many building downtown are already mostly dark at night.  The Gather building (500 E. Main Street), World Trade Center, Federal Building and Federal Courthouse, Waterside, Nauticus, and Blue Moone Cruise Terminal are some good examples of darkened buildings.  Those building managers will be sent a thank you from us including information on why lights out is so critical during migration and asking if we can recognize them on our Bird Safe HR website.  Many downtown buildings have decorative lighting facing upward, including Dominion Enterprises, McArthur Memorial, and the PNC building; we are planning to address those building this summer.  

We have started to work with the City of Norfolk to flip the switch on city properties. The Old and New Courthouses, Slover Library, and Tidewater Community College are illuminated all night, 7 days a week.  As a result of those discussion, the City is installing new timers at the New Courthouse, once both timers are installed, the interior lights should shut-off at 9 pm - saving birds and money. They are continuing work to reduce lighting at other buildings. The multiple parking garages, private and city-owned, have bright lighting because of the risk of crime, and the lighting for these is unlikely to change. We're also discussing getting the City to apply dots or to install a banner over the skywalks over Atlantic Street, Main Street, and Waterside Drive connecting parking garages with buildings.  

Since the spring we've also set up a website to promote the campaign at http://www.birdsafehr.org/ and made great progress in recruiting partner organization to do further outreach.  Besides the Virginia Zoo and Elizabeth River Project, partners now include Friends of Indian River, Tidewater Rehabilitation & Environmental Education, Virginia Society of Ornithology, William and Mary Institute for Integrative Conservation, Downtown Norfolk Council, Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory, Williamsburg Bird Club, and DarkSky Virginia.  

Pat reported on the monitoring effort in downtown Norfolk this spring.  Since April 30th, 23 dead or injured birds were found around downtown over 8+ days of monitoring.  Three of these were injured and sent to Lisa Barlow of Tidewater Rehabilitation & Environmental Education; the other 20 were dead. By species these included 6 Black and White Warblers, 4 Ovenbirds, 6 Northern Parula, 2 Indigo Buntings, one each of Wood Thrush, Swainson’s Thrush, Blue Grosbeak, Red Eyed Vireo, Blackpoll Warbler, and 3 parts of birds - a wren, Clapper Rail and Horned Grebe which were probably the remains from predation by the hawk at the Icon building.   The dead birds found were recorded in the iNaturalist project Dead Birds in Norfolk which was set up by Laura Mae and can be viewed at  https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/dead-birds-in-norfolk.  The project includes dead birds collected downtown in previous years - 36 individual birds between 2019 and 2022 by Laura Mae alone.   we are  working with VCU to create an ARCGIS map that will added to the website”. 

The Walters Lab at Old Dominion University is taking the dead birds we are collecting to their museum for further study and adding them to their window collisions database. We are also working with Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond to record bird collision data an ARCGIS map that will added to this website. 

Michelle Lewis and Victoria Dunch reported on the efforts being made by the Virginia Zoo and ERP to make their building bird safe.   The Zoo uses bird safe window treatments and is mostly dark at night.  The ERP's new Ryan Resilience Lab has now treated all its windows and Lights Out at night.   Michelle is inquiring about asking their volunteers to help us with monitoring.   Victoria will see how the ERP can use the River Star Business program to promote the effort.  Rogard continues to update and improve the website with a map and further resources.   

We are looking for more volunteers to promote and expand the program for this year's fall migration.  We plan on continuing to reach out to building downtown, work with the City to improve their policies, talk to civic leagues, build community support, and recruit more volunteers for monitoring in the fall.  This task is large and we need support, both in volunteers, contacts, and other resources.  Let us know if you wish to help.  

Here is a short video about the Lights Out effort.  While focused on Texas, the message is relevant for Hampton Roads with our location on the Atlantic Flyway.