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Attraction of nocturnally migrating birds to artificial light: The influence of colour, intensity and blinking mode under different cloud cover conditions

Rebke, Maren, Dierschke, Volker, Weiner, Christiane N., Aumüller, Ralf, Hill, Katrin, Hill, Reinhold
Biological conservation 2019 v.233 pp. 220-227
Passeriformes, cloud cover, color, lighting, marine environment, migratory birds, red light, thermography, white light, wind farms, North Sea
A growing number of offshore wind farms have led to a tremendous increase in artificial lighting in the marine environment. This study disentangles the connection of light characteristics, which potentially influence the reaction of nocturnally migrating passerines to artificial illumination under different cloud cover conditions. In a spotlight experiment on a North Sea island, birds were exposed to combinations of light colour (red, yellow, green, blue, white), intensity (half, full) and blinking mode (intermittent, continuous) while measuring their number close to the light source with thermal imaging cameras.We found that no light variant was constantly avoided by nocturnally migrating passerines crossing the sea. The number of birds did neither differ between observation periods with blinking light of different colours nor compared to darkness. While intensity did not influence the number attracted, birds were drawn more towards continuous than towards blinking illumination, when stars were not visible. Red continuous light was the only exception that did not differ from the blinking counterpart. Continuous green, blue and white light attracted significantly more birds than continuous red light in overcast situations.Our results suggest that light sources offshore should be restricted to a minimum, but if lighting is needed, blinking light is to be preferred over continuous light, and if continuous light is required, red light should be applied.