19th January 2018
University of Delaware study looks at how birds are drawn to artificial light pollution in urban areas
UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE
On their fall migration south in the Northern Hemisphere, scores of birds are being lured by artificial light pollution into urban areas that may be an ecological trap, according to the University of Delaware's Jeff Buler.
Buler, associate professor in UD's Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, and his research team used 16 weather surveillance radars from the northeastern United States over a seven-year period to map the distributions of migratory birds during their fall stopovers. The research is published in the scientific journal Ecology Letters.
Since most of the birds that migrate in the U.S. are nocturnal and leave their stopover sites at night, Buler and his research group took snapshots of the birds as they departed.
"Shortly after sunset, at around civil twilight, they all take off in these well-synchronized flights that show up as a sudden bloom of reflectivity on the radar," Buler said. "We take a snapshot of that, which allows us to map out where they were on the ground and at what densities. It basically gives us a picture of their distributions on the ground."
The researchers were interested in seeing what factors shape the birds' distributions and why they occur in certain areas.