Bright lights in the big cities: migratory birds’ exposure to artificial light

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Many species of migratory birds have evolved the ability to migrate at night, and the recent and rapid expansion of artificial light at night has markedly altered the nighttime sky through which they travel. Migrating birds regularly pass through heavily illuminated landscapes, and bright lights affect avian orientation. But risks to migrating birds from artificial light are not spatially or temporally uniform, representing a challenge for mitigating potential hazards and developing action plans to catalog risks at continental scales. We leveraged over two decades of remote-sensing data collected by weather surveillance radar and satellite-based sensors to identify locations and times of year when the highest numbers of migrating birds are exposed to light pollution in the contiguous US. Our continental-scale quantification of light exposure provides a novel opportunity for dynamic and targeted conservation strategies to address the hazards posed by light pollution to nocturnally migrating birds.




Horton, K. G., Nilsson, C., Van Doren, B. M., La Sorte, F. A., Dokter, A. M., & Farnsworth, A. (2019). Bright lights in the big cities: migratory birds’ exposure to artificial light. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 17(4), 209–214.

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