Azores island turns off lights to protect endangered seabirds
A Cory's Shearwater. Image: Tania Pipa/ SPEA

Azores island turns off lights to protect endangered seabirds

Corvo island hopes to ‘set an example’ over the hazards of light pollution

For several days starting next week, the tiny island of Corvo in the Azores will be in self-imposed blackout.

The public lighting system will be turned off from 9pm on Wednesday to 4am the following day until October 30 in a bid to protect the world’s most endangered group of birds (seabirds, in this case the Cory’s Shearwater) and to raise awareness on the hazards of light pollution.

Then on October 31, public lighting will be turned off from 1am every night until November 10.

The initiative – promoted by SPEA, the Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds, with full support of the local municipality – falls during a “critical period” for these seabirds.

“At this time of year, birds like Cory’s Shearwater are leaving the nest and heading out to sea. To avoid predators they do so at night, but the lights from our towns and cities often blind them. The disoriented birds end up grounded, not only in the Azores, but in Madeira and the Canary Islands”.

The blackout “builds on previous initiatives on Corvo island where authorities have increasingly recognised the impact of light pollution on birds and the importance of an energy efficiency policy to protect these species and reach the desired conservation and sustainable tourism goals”, says SPEA. 

Last year, SPEA held a one-night blackout with the support of the municipality, and since 2017 the council has turned off public lighting during the most critical periods of SPEA’s ‘SOS Cory’s Shearwater’ campaign, in which dozens of volunteers help lost birds get back to the sea.

Corvo island has less than 400 inhabitants, and those polled have all given “unanimous support” for the blackouts, which are part of projects Interreg EElabs and Interreg LuMinAves.

Says SPEA, hopes are that “other towns and islands throughout the region will follow Corvo’s example, turning off the lights at crucial times” to help endangered birds survive.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com