Jump to content
Ornithology Exchange (brought to you by the Ornithological Council)

FAA allows long-sought change to bird-friendly telecomm tower lighting

Recommended Posts

This news and analysis are provided by the Ornithological Council, a consortium supported by 12 ornithological societies. Join or renew your membership in your ornithological society if you value the services these societies provide to you, including Ornithology Exchange and the Ornithological Council!


For many years, ornithologists, led largely by Joelle Gehring (Michigan State University, Michigan Natural Features Inventory) and bird conservation organizations have been concerned about avian mortality resulting from impacts with telecommunications towers or the guy wires that anchor the towers. Gerhring's research pointed to the lighting color and type. Specifically, the studies strongly suggested that by extinguishing non-flashing, red L-810 lights on towers in the 116–146 m height range, leaving only the L-864 (red strobe or red incandescent) flashing lights or L-865 (white strobe) flashing lights, fatality rates could be reduced by as much as 50–70%. However, as the lighting is aircraft obstruction lighting, the Federal Communications Commission, which licenses towers, was could not allow tower owners to change the lighting without authority from the Federal Aviation Administration.


Gehring worked tirelessly to persuade the FAA to test the conspicuity (could aircraft pilots see them as well as they could see the approved lighting systems?) of the lighting regimens without red steady-burning side lights. The FAA eventually conducted the conspicuity studies and determined that the alternate lighting systems would not impact aviation safety. The agency has now released a draft advisory circular and the aviation community has been asked to comment by 29 June 2012 .


Though research suggests that green lights might reduce the impact even more than the cessation of the use of red/steady burning lights (Poot et al. 2008), the FAA change is far more likely to be implemented, given that it requires nothing more of tower owners than simply allowing the existing red steady-burning side lights to burn out.


The Ornithological Council offers hearty congratulations to Gehring for this remarkable achievement.


A compendium of the Gehring research:




Gehring, J., Kerlinger, P., and A. Manville. 2011. The role of tower height and guy wires on avian collisions with communications towers. The Journal of Wildlife Management 75:848-855.


Gehring, J., Kerlinger, P., and A. Manville. 2009. Communication towers, lights, and birds: successful methods of reducing the frequency of avian collisions. Ecological Applications 19:505-514.



Gehring, J. and P. Kerlinger. 2007. Avian collisions at communication towers: II. The role of Federal Aviation Administration obstruction lighting systems. Report to State of Michigan. (copy attached to this post).


Literature cited


Poot, H., Ens, B., de Vries, H., Donners, M., Wernand, M., and J. Marquenie. 2008. Green light for nocturnally migrating birds. Ecology and Society 13: 47. Available online at


See also:


Marquenie, J.M. 2007. Green light to birds: investigation into the effect of bird-friendly lighting. Available online at http://www.waddenzee...to_birdsNAM.pdf

MPSCS Final Report Avian Collision Study -Tower Lights.pdf

Link to comment
Share on other sites

…Adding to Ellen’s comments and kudos to Joelle, I would also specifically congratulate American Bird Conservancy, National Audubon Society and Defenders of Wildlife for their years-long work with the telecommunications industry in seeking solutions that would reduce bird collisions – which resulted in their joint proposal for the conspicuity study to the FAA and relentless lobbying to see its fruition. Darin Schroeder of ABC in particular has led conservation community efforts to reduce bird mortality from tower collisions. Along with Joelle, ABC has been involved in this issue for more than a dozen years and it is fantastic to have it finally pay off.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...