Dark Skies: How Turning Clocks Back Affects Our Birds

Leaving no tern unstoned
Leaving no tern unstoned
Cartoon by Dan Rattiner

The winter solstice came on December 21, and the sun set at its earliest time of the year. Normally it would have been 5:19 p.m. But no. It set at 4:19 p.m. because, in a long-ago November, we decided to set the clocks back an hour to save fuel during the winter months to thus fight World War I better.

Doing this now is awful not only for people, but also for birds. Here at our bird feeder by the front deck of our house in East Hampton, they seem to stop eating at 4 p.m. when it gets dark. Can’t see the food? Let’s just go to our nests and snuggle in for the night. In the morning, they are famished. All because we turned the clocks back an hour.

I’d like to appeal to the North Fork Dark-Skies Coalition for help. I think they have an office in the Hamptons. We’ve all been doing our share by turning the lights down after dark. How about a little giveback? I think from November to March they should allow us to light up the skies between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., if not for us, then for the birds.

Turn on searchlights, floodlights and streetlights to their brightest settings and shine them facing up for those three hours so the birds can see the food. It’s the least we can do.

More from Our Sister Sites