Study of Noise and Light on birds

October 24, 2018 Moira Harbour No comments exist

Did you know that the Proposed Train Stabling Facility in Seaford is only 870 metres from the wetlands which is listed in the Ramsar Convention. Birds migrate every year to these wetlands to reproduce. It is well documented that these birds are drawn to light ships and stadiums, as they migrate at night. This facility will be brightly lit all night, all 75,000 square metres of it. The birds become confused and and use up vital energy stores and may never make it to the the wetlands, very close by. There are threatened and critically endangered birds that fly to the wetlands. Are we really going to let this happen? Let’s all put fingers to keyboard and stop this travesty, email your M.P’s and the Federal Minister of Energy and the Environment. Haven’t they done enough harm to Seaford already?

Local and Migratory bird populace face these issues;

•    Artificial noise hinders bird’s reproduction
•    Birds rely on their hearing to avoid danger
•    Noise pollution caused by human activity interferes with birds’ hearing ability
•    Artificial noise masks calls from other birds, a signal that predators may be present
•    This chronically stresses mother birds and nestlings
•    Birds nesting near noisy environments lay fewer eggs that hatch
•    Tense adults spend more time guarding their nests and less feeding their chicks, which affects the young
•    Chicks in loud areas have reduced growth and body size
•    Birds exposed to constant noise pollution suffer from chronic stress
•    Such birds have highly reduced levels of the stress hormone called Corticosterone
•    Low levels of the stress hormone occur as a reaction to intense stress as the body tones down levels of the hormone to protect itself. The condition is similar to humans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)


“Birds have to use things to orient. One of the tools in their kit is celestial cues, so they can use the star maps like early navigators,” Susan Elbin, director of conservation and science at NYC Audubon, says. Believing they’re flying toward starlight or something similar, nocturnal migrants are drawn to the dazzling display, where they end up wasting crucial energy flying around and sounding off in distress.

Matt Watson, David Wilson, and Daniel Mennill of the University of Windsor recorded the flight calls of migrating birds passing overhead during the 2013 fall migration in southern Ontario, Canada, comparing sites with and without ground-level artificial lights. Analyzing 352 hours of recordings, including the calls of at least 15 bird species, they found that significantly more flight calls were recorded at lit sites than at dark sites. “By pointing microphones at the night sky, we can survey migratory birds based on the quiet sounds they produce in flight,” says Mennill. “This simple technique offers a special opportunity because we can resolve particular species of birds, or groups of species, using a fairly simple technology.”

“It was exciting to find that even low-level anthropogenic lights affect call detections from migrating birds,” adds Watson. Their findings have several possible explanations—ground-level lights could be disorienting birds, causing them to call more often and decrease their altitude as they attempt to straighten themselves out, or they could actually be attracting additional birds, as has already been documented with higher-elevation lights. In either case, artificial lights are causing migrating birds to waste energy, which could affect their chances of surviving their journey.

“Anthropogenic light has profound effects on wild animals. For migratory birds, we know that lights on top of skyscrapers, communication towers, and lighthouses disorient and attract birds,” says Mennill. “Our study reveals for the first time that even low-intensity lights on the ground influence the behavior of migratory birds overhead.”

Excessive or misdirected artificial light at night (ALAN) produces light pollution that influences several aspects of the biology and ecology of birds, including disruption of circadian rhythms and disorientation during flight. Many migrating birds traverse large expanses of land twice every year at night when ALAN illuminates the sky.

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