The generation of artificial light by human activity can have far-reaching detrimental impacts upon a wide variety of organisms. A great deal of attention has been paid to well-lit buildings, television towers, and communication towers as sources of mortality for nocturnally migrating songbirds. However, despite being among the first human structures known to generate migratory bird kills, little is known about the current impact of lighthouses on birds, or the impact of light design. We examined the impact of a lighthouse on nocturnal avian migrants at Long Point, Lake Erie, Ontario, Canada. From 1960–1989, mean annual kills were 200 birds in spring, and 393 in autumn, with kills of up to 2000 birds in a single night. In 1989, the Long Point lighthouse was automated, with a simultaneous change in beam characteristics – the new beam is narrower and less powerful. This change brought about a drastic reduction in avian mortality at the lighthouse to a mean of only 18.5 birds per year in spring, and 9.6 in autumn from 1990–2002. Our results highlight the effectiveness of simple changes in light signatures in reducing avian light attraction and mortality during migration.