Lighting up the forest – what is the impact of artificial light on breeding birds?

K. Spoelstra, M. De Jong, Roy H. A. van Grunsven, Elmar M. Veenendaal, Frank Berendse, M.E. Visser

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractScientific


Economic growth and the increase in urbanization has led to an increase of anthropogenic illumination in large parts of the world. Effects of artificial light have been reported in different ecosystems, on many species and species groups. With excellent vision, and – in many species – a dependence on day length information for seasonal timing, birds are potentially strongly affected by disturbances of their natural light environment. However, relatively little is known about the long-term consequences of these disturbances, and even less about the effects of light on different colours. To study this, we set up a large-scale monitoring project in natural habitat in the Netherlands. At eight study sites we experimentally illuminated 100 m long transects at the forest edge with white, green and red light, and left one transect dark. Every year, we assessed the presence, density and activity of many species at these sites according to rigid protocols. In order to have a dark reference for all sites, we started the monitoring routine a year before the artificial illumination was installed. All nest sites and song posts of breeding bird species were located. Birds were frequently netted and banded in order to monitor residence, recruitment and dispersion. We measured timing and reproductive success in birds breeding in nest boxes at and around all transects, as well as daily activity patterns in feeding behaviour. Here we present the effects of light on breeding bird species, including the advance of lay date of great tits (Parus major) breeding at the green and white illuminated transects. We show effects on territories, survival, daily and seasonal timing. Experimental, long term studies are essential for the quantification of the impact of artificial light on birds.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2014
EventInternational Ornithological Congress: Annual event - Tokyo, Japan
Duration: 22 Aug 201024 Aug 2014


ConferenceInternational Ornithological Congress
Internet address


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