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The effects of artificial night lighting on animal behaviour and fitness are largely unknown. Most studies report short-term consequences in locations that are also exposed to other anthropogenic disturbance. We know little about how the effects of nocturnal illumination vary with different light colour compositions. This is increasingly relevant as the use of LED lights becomes more common, and LED light colour composition can be easily adjusted. We experimentally illuminated previously dark natural habitat with white, green and red light, and measured the effects on life-history decisions and fitness in two free-living songbird species, the great tit (Parus major) and pied flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca) in two consecutive years. In 2013, but not in 2014, we found an effect of light treatment on lay date, and of the interaction of treatment and distance to the nearest lamp post on chick mass in great tits but not in pied flycatchers. We did not find an effect in either species of light treatment on breeding densities, clutch size, probability of brood failure, number of fledglings and adult survival. The finding that light colour may have differential effects opens up the possibility to mitigate negative ecological effects of nocturnal illumination by using different light spectra. artificial light at nightlight spectralife-historyfitnessParus majorFicedula hypoleucaFootnotesOne contribution of 14 to a theme issue ‘The biological impacts of artificial light at night: from molecules to communities’.© 2015 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.