Light pollution is increasing exponentially, but its impact on animal behaviour is still poorly understood. For songbirds, the most repeatable finding is that artificial night lighting leads to an earlier daily onset of dawn singing. Most of these studies are, however, correlational and cannot entirely dissociate effects of light pollution from other effects of urbanization. In addition, there are no studies in which the effects of different light colours on singing have been tested. Here, we investigated whether the timing of dawn singing in wild songbirds is influenced by artificial light using an experimental set-up with conventional street lights. We illuminated eight previously dark forest edges with white, green, red or no light, and recorded daily onset of dawn singing during the breeding season. Based on earlier work, we predicted that onset of singing would be earlier in the lighted treatments, with the strongest effects in the early-singing species. However, we found no significant effect of the experimental night lighting (of any colour) in the 14 species for which we obtained sufficient data. Confounding effects of urbanization in previous studies may explain these results, but we also suggest that the experimental night lighting may not have been strong enough to have an effect on singing.
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Data from: Experimental illumination of a forest: no effects of lights of different colours on the onset of the dawn chorus in songbirds