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Nighttime Light Show During Philly Arts Fest Raises Bird Migration Concerns

By John McDevitt

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The "Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe" kicks off tonight, for 15 days.

One of the events, an outdoor interactive light show scheduled for later this month, is raising concern among environmentalists and animal rights groups because it is scheduled to take place during the peak of the fall bird migration.

Experts say migrating birds are sensitive to lights in the night sky.  The interactive light show, called "Open Air," will incorporate 24 searchlights moving slowly during a three-hour show along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, running for 25 nights starting September 20th.

"Bright light sources at night can distract (birds) and cause them to behave in ways to delay their migrations, or sometimes cause them to fly into objects and kill themselves," says Keith Russell, with Audubon Pennsylvania.

He says because the types of lights in the show have never been studied in relation to migrating birds, it is unclear as to what exactly they will do.

The Association of Public Art commissioned the installation and has been working with Audubon Pennsylvania on how it can make sure the bird migration is not affected.

Penny Balkin Bach, director of the art association, says her organization has safety measures in place and is glad the project is rasing concerns, "because it shows the public environment is something people really care about -- as do we."

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