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Data from: Effects of experimental night lighting on the daily timing of winter foraging in common European songbirds


Da Silva, Arnaud; Diez-Méndez, David; Kempenaers, Bart (2017), Data from: Effects of experimental night lighting on the daily timing of winter foraging in common European songbirds, Dryad, Dataset,


The ecological effects of light pollution are becoming better understood, especially in birds. Recent studies have shown that several bird species can use street lighting to extend activity into the night during the breeding season. However, most of these studies are correlational and little is known about the effects of artificial night lighting on the timing of activities outside the breeding season. During winter, low temperatures and short days may limit foraging opportunities and can negatively affect survival of resident birds. However, night lighting may allow them to expand the time niche available for foraging. Here, we report on a study where we repeatedly manipulated the amount of night lighting during early winter at automated feeding stations in a natural forest. We used video-recordings at the feeders to determine the time of the first (at dawn) and last (at dusk) foraging visits for six songbird species. We predicted that all species, and in particular the naturally early-foraging species, would advance their daily onset of foraging during the mornings with night lighting, but would show minimal or no delays in their daily cessation of foraging during the lighted evenings. We found that two early-foraging species, the blue tit and the great tit, started foraging earlier during the experimentally lighted mornings. However, in great tits, this effect was weak and restricted to nights with inclement weather. The light treatment did not have any effect on the start of foraging in the willow/marsh tit, the nuthatch, the European jay, and the blackbird. Artificial night lighting did not cause later foraging at dusk in any of the six species. Overall, our results suggest that artificial light during winter has only small effects on timing of foraging. We discuss these findings and the importance of temperature and winter weather in shaping the observed foraging patterns.

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