Is the Sept. 11 Memorial Killing New York’s Birds?

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Every Sept. 11, New York City fires up the “Tribute of Light” – two huge shafts of white light soaring into the evening sky. This year, however, the lights disoriented some 10,000 birds migrating over lower Manhattan, leading some animal advocates to question the tribute’s ethics – and legality. (via Animal Planet)

Migratory birds are protected by federal law; accordingly, the New York chapter of the National Audubon Society has been keeping tabs on the soaring 9/11 tribute, phoning in to the Municipal Art Society – the group that manages the white lights – when it became clear that wide swaths of helpless birds were caught up in the blinding beams this past Saturday. Apparently birds lose their orientation in bright lights, and wind up circling the towers. (See photos of the evolution of Ground Zero)

As a result, the tribute had to be repeatedly shut down this year to allow the entangled animals to make an escape. “Through the course of the night we shut the lights off five times for approximately 20 minutes each time,” John Rowden, Citizen Science Manager for NYC Audubon, told Animal Planet.

Why the rush to shut down the lights? Because these migrating birds are running low on fat stores and energy – and a night’s worth of circling Ground Zero could cause major problems in completing their journey north.

Most years, weather conditions have reportedly altered the paths of birds, leading them away from downtown Manhattan on the 11th of September. But a similar situation occurred in 2004, prompting discussions about the dangers posed to wildlife by the lights.