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Journal Article

Apparent Effects of Light Pollution on Singing Behavior of American Robins

Mark W. Miller
The Condor
Vol. 108, No. 1 (Feb., 2006), pp. 130-139
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4123202
Page Count: 10

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Topics: Lighting, Singing, Bird songs, Twilight, Light pollution, Choirs, Popular songs, Clouds, Aviculture, Rain
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Apparent Effects of Light Pollution on Singing Behavior of American Robins
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Abstract

Astronomers consider light pollution to be a growing problem, however few studies have addressed potential effects of light pollution on wildlife. Sunlight is believed to initiate song in many bird species. If light initiates song, then light pollution may be influencing avian song behavior at a population level. This hypothesis predicts that birds breeding in areas with large amounts of artificial light will begin singing earlier in the day than birds in areas with little artificial light. Birds in highly illuminated areas might begin singing earlier than did birds in those same areas in previous years when artificial light levels were known to be, or were presumably, lower. Also, birds should begin singing earlier within a site on brightly lit nights. In 2002 and 2003 I documented initiation of morning song by breeding American Robins (Turdus migratorius) in areas with differing intensity of artificial nocturnal light. I compared my observations among sites and against historical studies. Robin populations in areas with large amounts of artificial light frequently began their morning chorus during true night. Chorus initiation time, relative to civil twilight, was positively correlated with amount of artificial light present during true night. Robin choruses in areas with little, or presumably little, artificial light have almost never begun during true night, instead appearing to track the onset of civil twilight. Proliferation of artificial nocturnal light may be strongly affecting singing behavior of American Robins at a population level. /// Los astrónomos consideran que la polución lumínica es un problema creciente, aunque pocos estudios han evaluado sus efectos potenciales en la fauna silvestre. Se cree que la luz del sol estimula el inicio del canto en muchas especies de aves. Si la luz inicia el canto, entonces la polución lumínica puede estar influenciando el comportamiento del canto a nivel poblacional. Esta hipótesis predice que las aves que crían en áreas con altos niveles de luz artificial comenzarán a cantar más temprano en el día que aquellas en áreas con poca luz artificial. Las aves de áreas altamente iluminadas podrían comenzar a cantar más temprano que las aves en las mismas áreas en los años previos cuando los niveles de luz artificial eran, o se presumía que eran, menores. De igual manera, las aves deberían comenzar a cantar más temprano en los sitios con noches luminosas. En el 2002 y el 2003, documenté el inicio de los cantos matutinos de Turdus migratorius en áreas con diferentes intensidades de luz artificial nocturna. Comparé mis observaciones entre sitios y con estudios previos. Las poblaciones de T. migratorius en las áreas con niveles elevados de luz artificial frecuentemente comenzaron sus coros matutinos durante la noche real. El tiempo de inicio del coro, en relación con el anochecer urbano, se correlacionó positivamente con la cantidad de luz artificial presente durante la noche. Los coros de T. migratorius en las áreas con poca, o presumiblemente poca, luz artificial casi nunca han comenzado durante la noche real y en su lugar aparentan seguir el inicio del anochecer urbano. La proliferación de la luz artificial nocturna puede estar afectando severamente el comportamiento del canto de T. migratorius a nivel poblacional.

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