1127   Visual presentation

The light at night: our convenience, birds' peril

Author: Shalie Malik
Department of Zoology, University of Lucknow, India

How strange it would be to wake up to a world without birds!

Our morning begins with bird song but we never recognize or acknowledge it, yet they keep the nature in balance and take care of our ecosystem, which is an interrelated natural community of flora and fauna.

I work on biological timekeeping (Chronobiology) in birds and therefore got interested in studying how use of technology, that has dramatically impacted human life, has influenced the wildlife specially birds. Of all the technological innovations, the advent of artificial light has been the most dramatic event. It has obscured day-night differences, leading to extended day, increased work hours and changed pattern of our social life. We are now free to 'chose our day' within 24h. However, what is good for us may not hold true for birds.

The bright nights have disturbed the natural behavior of birds. Every year millions of birds die colliding with illuminated buildings and towers and the migrants that navigate by moonlight and starlight, wander and move towards the dangerous landscapes of cities on seeing the bright light at night. The nightlight has altered the perception of daylength than they actually are and shifted the onset of various physiological events such as migration, reproduction, foraging, nesting, song and sleep behaviors.

These findings can be useful for experts in the field, wildlife department, urban development authorities and policy makers to plan out the judicious use of technology for betterment of both man and wildlife. We need to think, discuss and analyze the impact of technology on the timing of life events and make planet earth a better place for birds to live, as is rightly said "if you take care of birds you take care of most of the big problems in the world".

Co-author: Sangeeta Rani
Department of Zoology, University of Lucknow, India

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