Evaluating the effects of moonlight on the vertical flight profiles of three western palaearctic swifts

Koen Hufkens, Christoph M. Meier, Ruben Evens, Josefa Arán Paredes, Hakan Karaardiç, Stef Vercauteren, Ann van Gysel, James W. Fox, Carlos Miguel Pacheco, Luis P. Da silva, Sandra Fernandes, Pedro Henriques, Gonçalo Elias, Luís T. Costa, Martin Poot, Lyndon Kearsley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Recent studies have suggested the presence of moonlight mediated behaviour in avian aerial insectivores, such as swifts. Here, we use the combined analysis of state-of-the-art activity logger data across three swift species, the common, pallid and alpine swifts, to quantify flight height and activity in responses to moonlight-driven crepuscular and nocturnal light conditions. Our results show a significant response in flight heights to moonlight illuminance for common and pallid swifts, i.e. when moon illuminance increased flight height also increased, while a moonlight-driven response is absent in alpine swifts. We show a weak relationship between night-time illuminance-driven responses and twilight ascending behaviour,suggesting a decoupling of both crepuscular and night-time behaviour.We suggest that swifts optimize their flight behaviour to adapt to favourable night-time light conditions, driven by light-responsive and size-dependent vertical insect stratification and weather conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number2010
Publication statusPublished - 8 Nov 2023
Externally publishedYes


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