The effect of natural and artificial light at night on nocturnal song in the diurnal willie wagtail

Ashton L. Dickerson, Michelle L. Hall, Therésa M. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Artificial light at night (ALAN) has rapidly and drastically changed the global nocturnal environment. Evidence for the effect of ALAN on animal behaviour is mounting and animals are exposed to both point sources of light (street and other surrounding light sources) and broadscale illuminance in the form of skyglow. Research has typically taken a simplified approach to assessing the presence of ALAN, yet to fully understand the ecological impact requires consideration of the different scales and sources of light concurrently. Bird song has previously been well studied for its relationship with light, offering an opportunity to examine the relative impact of different sources of light on behaviour. In this study, we combine correlational and experimental approaches to examine how light at night affects the nocturnal song behaviour of the largely diurnal willie wagtail (Rhipidura leucophrys). Observations of willie wagtails across urban and rural locations in southeastern Australia demonstrated that nocturnal song behaviour increased with the intensity of moonlight in darker rural areas but decreased in areas with high sky glow. In addition, willie wagtails were half as likely to sing at night in the presence of localized light sources such as streetlights in urban and rural areas. Experimental introduction of streetlights to a previously dark area confirmed this relationship: willie wagtail song rates declined when lights were turned on and returned to their original rates following streetlight removal. Our findings show that scale, as well as intensity, are important when considering the impact of light at night as moonlight, sky glow, and localized sources of artificial light have different effects on nocturnal song behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
Article number151986
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2022


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