Group looks to save taxpayer money - and migrating birds


Nicole Misencik/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - A local volunteer group is trying to save taxpayers money, and create a safer environment for birds. 

As the sun sets across central Indiana, thousands of visitors prepare for their night flight into the Circle City. At night, migrating birds use the stars for navigation to get to their final destinations - but city lights can distract them.

"A lot of these guys summer here in the states or up in Canada then they migrate back through to get back to Central and South America and some of these birds just aren't making that trip," said Kristin Bingham, Lights Out Indy.

Part of the reason some birds aren't flying back home are the well-lit Indianapolis skyline and monuments.

"The lights provide extra heat. They attract insects and they draw the birds down as they're migrating overhead," said Don Gorney, Lights Out Indy.

Extra food doesn't sound bad, but when it's time to take off, the birds are hitting building windows and dying, disoriented by all the light.

Volunteers with Lights Out Indy say the Statehouse is one of the brightest buildings in the area, with more than 65 floodlights.

"Overnight that's 700 kilowatts on the average night. That's what some homes use in a given month," said Gorney.

Before sunrise, volunteers walk the Statehouse grounds looking for birds that have died.

They've found 45 different species this year. They're cataloging their finds and hope to convince government leaders and other large building owners to save money - and birds, by reducing unnecessary lighting.

"Something that your mom might have told you when you were five years old - turn the lights off when you're not using them," said Gorney.

"Taxpayers are spending tens of thousands of dollars for the electricity and replacement bulbs," Gorney added, plus that lighting that takes place all night long contributes to bird deaths.

He believes hundreds if not thousands of birds will be saved if the floor lighting and flood lights are turned down, and just necessary security lights are used.

Four big Indianapolis buildings are saving money - and the birds - so far. The Central Library is turning down the lights overnight. The IMA, NCAA Headquarters, and the Wellpoint Operation Center have agreed to work follow the Lights Out Indy program as well.

Representatives from the Statehouse say they won't reduce the lighting because of security concerns.

Lights Out Indy