Two deceased American Woodcocks lay on a table alongside a printed spreadsheet.

Work in Progress: Lights Out

This project is ongoing. Lights Out DC is a non-profit organization that works to create a more bird-safe city by educating architects and building owners about the dangers of certain types of glass architecture to migratory birds. During migratory season, their volunteers walk daily routes around the city to find, document, and collect birds that have been injured or killed by collisions with buildings. In addition to treating and releasing those birds that can be rehabilitated, the group leverages the data gathered to demonstrate which buildings pose particular dangers to birds, and suggest potential solutions.

The photos below were taken at their annual tagging event, where a team of volunteers prepares the deceased birds from the past year (kept frozen) to be sent to the Smithsonian, where they will be used for research, education, or traded to other academic institutions.

Several Lights Out DC volunteers sit around a table with supplies for labeling specimens, while another volunteer passes out the birds. Anne Lewis, founder of Lights Out DC, double-checks the master list of specimens the organization has collected over the past year.

Left:Top: Several Lights Out DC volunteers sit around a table with supplies for labeling specimens, while another volunteer passes out the birds.

Right:Bottom: Anne Lewis, founder of Lights Out DC, double-checks the master list of specimens the organization has collected over the past year. The tagging event took place at her Georgetown home.

Three volunteers huddle around a single specimen, working together to confirm its species. Although all specimens are supposed to be labeled with species at the time they're found, occasionally the volunteers find that one has been misidentified and attempt to correct the record. A Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker sits on the table while a volunteer prepares its label.

Left:Top: Three volunteers huddle around a single specimen, working together to confirm its species. Although all specimens are supposed to be labeled with species at the time they're found, occasionally the volunteers find that one has been misidentified and attempt to correct the record.

Right:Bottom: A Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker sits on the table while a volunteer prepares its label.

A deceased bird sits atop a copy of The Sibley Guide to Birds. A volunteer consults the Sibley Guide to confirm a specimen's species.

Left:Top: A deceased bird sits atop a copy of The Sibley Guide to Birds.

Right:Bottom: A volunteer consults the Sibley Guide to confirm a specimen's species.

A volunteer shows other volunteers something on one of the bird specimens. Another volunteer demonstrates something in turn on her own bird specimen.

Volunteers frequently consult each other while they work, whether to point out something interesting or ask for clarification on some aspect of the labeling. Although the task at hand is sobering, this event is also one of the only occasions when all of the volunteers are together in one place and have the chance to catch up.

While Lights Out DC usually finds birds intact, occasionally they'll come across a body part, such as this wing. A volunteer shows the reverse side of the wing.

While Lights Out DC usually finds birds intact, occasionally they'll come across a body part, such as this wing.

A volunteer holds the largest bird found in 2019, a hawk. A tag is wrapped around the hawk's leg to identify its specimen number.

Left:Top: A volunteer holds the largest bird found in 2019, a hawk.

Right:Bottom: A tag is wrapped around the hawk's leg to identify its specimen number.

One of the Lights Out DC volunteers labels a fledgling. Another volunteer holds a tiny hummingbird.

Left:Top: One of the Lights Out DC volunteers labels a fledgling.

Right:Bottom: Another volunteer holds a tiny hummingbird.

Amid pens and plastic bags, a yellow bird rests on the table. Three volunteers work on labeling and bagging birds.

Left:Top: Amid pens and plastic bags, a yellow bird rests on the table.

Right:Bottom: Three volunteers work on labeling and bagging birds.

A volunteer holds up a specimen in a plastic ziplock bag. Three birds in bags rest on a table.

Left:Top: A volunteer holds up a specimen in a plastic ziplock bag.

Right:Bottom: Three birds in bags rest on a table.

After all of the birds are sorted and labeled, the volunteers gather around to compare the lists of what they've catalogued and ensure there are no discrepancies. Several large baskets and coolers hold approximately 500 birds in total from 2019.

After all of the birds are sorted and labeled, the volunteers gather around to compare the lists of what they've catalogued and ensure there are no discrepancies. Several large baskets and coolers hold approximately 500 birds in total from 2019.