Fortunately there is a simple solution to this problem -- change the color of the lights. Similar problems have occurred around the oil platforms in the North Sea. A 2007 study of the effects of platform lighting in the North Sea found that using green lights rather than white or red lights would virtually eliminate the problem. White and red light seem to have a disorienting or hypnotic effect on migrating birds. They somehow ignore or perhaps cannot see green lights.
Another study in 2008 reported similar findings. White and red lights disrupted birds' ability to orient; green lights caused minor problems.
So switching to green lights on Gulf oil and gas platforms seems a simple solution to a serious problem.
Another possibility that shows promise is cycling lights on and off during migrations. Strobing lights are far less confusing to birds than steady white and red beams. Studies at cellphone towers have revealed that strobing white and red lights create fewer problems than constantly illuminated lights. In fact, this strategy has been used at anniversary events at 9/ 11 memorials at the World Trade Center site. Lights are simply turned off when too many birds become attracted to the lights.
ABC Bird Collisions Campaign Manager Dr. Christine Sheppard says, "Some countries, such as the Netherlands, have already instituted bird-friendly lighting on oil and gas platforms off their coasts."
Though a U.S. Department of Interior study was planned for 2005, nothing materialized. So ABC has requested that the project be revived. A new federal study is now planned for 2013. Since there are about 6,000 oil and gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, it's about time.
Send questions and comments to Dr. Scott Shalaway, RD 5, Cameron, WV 26033 or by email via my website, http://scottshalaway.googlepages.com.