Artificial light at night confounds broad-scale habitat use by migrating birds

Ecology Letters
By: , and 



With many of the world's migratory bird populations in alarming decline, broad-scale assessments of responses to migratory hazards may prove crucial to successful conservation efforts. Most birds migrate at night through increasingly light-polluted skies. Bright light sources can attract airborne migrants and lead to collisions with structures, but might also influence selection of migratory stopover habitat and thereby acquisition of food resources. We demonstrate, using multi-year weather radar measurements of nocturnal migrants across the northeastern U.S., that autumnal migrant stopover density increased at regional scales with proximity to the brightest areas, but decreased within a few kilometers of brightly-lit sources. This finding implies broad-scale attraction to artificial light while airborne, impeding selection for extensive forest habitat. Given that high-quality stopover habitat is critical to successful migration, and hindrances during migration can decrease fitness, artificial lights present a potentially heightened conservation concern for migratory bird populations.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Artificial light at night confounds broad-scale habitat use by migrating birds
Series title Ecology Letters
DOI 10.1111/ele.12902
Volume 21
Issue 3
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Description 9 p.
First page 356
Last page 364
Country United States
State Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia
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