The impact of artificial light on avian ecology

Kamiel Spoelstra*, Marcel E. Visser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter reviews available information on how artificial light affects birds. The best documented response of birds to artificial light may be attraction during migration at night. Brightly lit spots in dark environments, such as oil rigs at sea, can disrupt orientation in night-migrating diurnal birds, especially when the sky is overcast. This form of disorientation often leads to death due to exhaustion, which ensues from a dramatic increase in flight time, but also directly by collision with the lighted structure. Night light can increase nocturnal activity in birds living in illuminated habitats. Timing of daily activity is also affected - a frequently observed effect of artificial light is that birds start their dawn song earlier in the morning. There are thus clear effects of artificial light on birds. However, the possible fitness consequences or even effects on population numbers of artificial light are still unknown. The chapter also considers possibilities for mitigating the impact of ecological light pollution on birds and outlines experiments needed to further clarify the ecological impact of night light on birds.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAvian Urban Ecology
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191810176
ISBN (Print)9780199661572
Publication statusPublished - 14 Nov 2013


  • Artificial light
  • Birds
  • Ecological light pollution
  • Night light

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