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
Artificial lights are widely used to enhance the watching of the emergence of little penguins from the shore by tourists. We installed two parallel tunnels on a penguin pathway of a dark sky colony where no artificail lights are visible. Each tunnel displayed a light type during the two hours after sunset. Data-loggers located at the botton of the tunnels counted the number of penguins crossing through each tunnel. Camera traps were also used to record any potential anomaly in penguin behaviour. The cameras let us know that not only tourists watch the penguins when they are coming ashore: a lot of animals go there to take a look!
Next October 8 will take place on the island of Porto Santo, Madeira, Portugal, a forum for debate on the issue of light pollution and its effect on biodiversity. This forum included in the LIFE project Ilheus Porto Santo, will aim to present the results obtained in the framework of the developed conservation actions. In addition to assistance from project partners (Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds and Madeira Natural Park Service), we will have testimonials from other research teams to work in this subject. Although we can not physically assist, we will contribute with a video conference from Phillip Island, Australia.
New publication! GPSs track the flight of Cory's shearwater fledglings from their nests to lit areas
In this study we used GPS data-loggers to track the flights of Cory’s shearwater Calonectris diomedea fledglings from nest-burrows to ground, and to evaluate the light pollution levels of overflown areas on Tenerife, Canary Islands, using nocturnal, high-resolution satellite imagery. Birds were grounded at locations closer than 16 km from colonies in their maiden flights, and 50% were rescued within a 3 km radius from the nest-site. Most birds left the nests in the first three hours after sunset. Rescue locations showed radiance values greater than colonies, and flight distance was positively related to light pollution levels. Breeding habitat alteration by light pollution was more severe for inland colonies. We provide scientific-based information to manage dark refuges facilitating that fledglings from inland colonies reach the sea successfully.
Rodríguez, A. et al. (2015) GPS tracking for mapping seabird mortality induced by light pollution. Scientific Reports 5, 10670; doi: 10.1038/srep10670
Petrels are among the most threatened group of birds. On top of facing predation by introduced mammals and incidental bycatch, these seabirds have to deal with an emerging threat, light pollution. Fledglings are disoriented and attracted to artificial lights in their maiden night flights from their nests to the sea. Once grounded, they are exposed to multiple threats leading to high mortality. We report on numbers of three petrel species (Balearic shearwater, Scopoli’s shearwater, and European storm-petrel) grounded by artificial lights on the Balearic Islands during a 15-year period. At least 304 fledgling birds were found stranded due to attraction to artificial lights, fatally affecting 8.5 % of them. The proportion of grounded fledglings was lower than 1 % of the fledglings produced annually. The body mass of Balearic and Scopoli’s shearwater fledglings decreased with rescue date. Light-induced mortality increased during the fledging period for Scopoli’s shearwaters. Although impact seems to be low for all species, urban development and, consequently, the increase in light pollution in the proximity of the colonies should be taken into account to reduce as much as possible this emerging source of mortality.
Rodríguez et al. (2015) Artificial lights and seabirds: is light pollution a threat for the threatened Balearic petrels? Journal of Ornithology DOI: 10.1007/s10336-015-1232-3
In that section, the most relevant news about the project and other news related to seabird conservation will be highlighted