Audubon Urges Lights Off After Hundreds of Chimney Swifts Collide with Building

Scores of swifts are injured and dead after slamming into the NASCAR Hall of Fame building in Charlotte on the evening of Oct. 15.

Audubon North Carolina is urging the NASCAR Hall of Fame shut off its lights after dark, after hundreds of Chimney Swifts collided with the building on the evening of Oct. 15. The following statement is from Audubon North Carolina Senior Network Manager Kim Brand.

“It’s unusual for Chimney Swifts to collide with windows. Audubon volunteers have documented this a few times in North Carolina cities, but only one bird at a time – not a large-scale event like this one. The birds that usually collide with windows are mostly songbird species that migrate at night.

It’s also odd that these swifts were out last night after 9 p.m. Normally, even during migration, Chimney Swifts go to roost in a chimney for the night around dusk. Yesterday, the sun set around 7 p.m.

We suspect these birds faced a “perfect storm” last night. Chimney Swifts were out past their bedtime possibly because they could not find a suitable chimney in which to roost (or experienced some kind of disturbance, causing them to leave a roost chimney), and lights inside the NASCAR Hall of Fame shone brightly, reflected by low cloud cover, attracting and disorienting the birds and leading to collisions.

Turning out lights has been shown to reduce bird collisions by one third (in a Winston-Salem study) to 80 percent (in a Chicago study). We urge the NASCAR Hall of Fame to turn out all lights this evening and through mid-November to protect swifts and other birds migrating south for the winter. We make similar recommendations for buildings across North Carolina, but it's especially important that the NASCAR Hall of Fame shut off lights tonight to reduce the chances of this happening again.

Mecklenburg Audubon Society volunteers will observe nearby chimneys in which swifts are known to roost at dusk tonight. Playing recordings of swift sounds has helped attract Chimney Swifts to chimneys in Raleigh and Chapel Hill – and this may protect any Chimney Swifts still in the area this evening by helping them find a safe place to sleep tonight.

As schools update their HVAC systems, they often remove old brick chimneys, or cap them to keep moisture out. Capping the chimney keeps swifts out, too. Mecklenburg Audubon volunteers are checking to find out whether that is the case at nearby Dilworth Elementary, which hosted 750 Chimney Swifts (reported by Mecklenburg Audubon Society member Thomas Sanders to on Sept. 10, 2010).

Chimney Swift populations have declined by more than half in the past 50 years. They depend on chimneys for safe places to sleep and nest, and Audubon North Carolina recommends that building owners and homeowners keep brick chimneys open from March through October to give the swifts refuge.

Audubon North Carolina is grateful to Carolina Waterfowl Rescue for racing to the scene last night to rescue and rehabilitate more than 200 swifts."

Find more information on our Lights Out page and our Chimney Swifts page.

The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. Audubon’s state programs, nature centers, chapters and partners have an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation action. Since 1905, Audubon’s vision has been a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization. Learn more at and @audubonsociety. Audubon North Carolina, a state program of the National Audubon Society, has offices in Durham, Boone, Corolla, and Wilmington. Learn more at and on Twitter at @audubonnc.​

Media contact: Ben Graham,, 919-880-3793

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