We used 13 years of attendance data to study the effects of sun, moon, and artificial light on the attendance pattern of a nocturnal seabird, the little penguin Eudyptula minor at Phillip Island, Australia. The little penguin is the smallest and the only penguin species whose activity on land is strictly nocturnal. Automated monitoring systems recorded individually marked penguins every time they arrived at or departed from two colonies under different lighting conditions: natural night skylight and artificial lights (around 3 lux) used to enhance penguin viewing for ecotourism around sunset. Sunlight had a strong effect on attendance as penguins arrived on average after sunset and departed before sunrise. The effect of moonlight was also strong, varying according to moon phase. Fewer penguins came ashore during full moon nights. Cyclic patterns of moon effect were slightly out of phase but significantly between two colonies, which could be due to site-specific differences or presence/absence of artificial lights. Moonlight could be overridden by artificial light at our artificially lit colony, but the similar amplitude of attendance patterns between colonies suggests that artificial light did not mask the moonlight effect.
Rodríguez et al. (2016) Waddling on the Dark Side: Ambient Light Affects Attendance Behavior of Little Penguins. Journal of Biological Rhythms DOI: 10.1177/0748730415626010
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