The Surprising, Depressing Reason Why City-Dwelling Robins Sing At Night

Illustration for article titled The Surprising, Depressing Reason Why City-Dwelling Robins Sing At Night

Robins aren't naturally nocturnal. But lately, in urban areas, they've been staying up all night singing. Some research has suggested it's due to the fact that cities are so damn loud. But a new study has given weight to another cause: cities are so damn bright, the birds believe it's daytime all the time.


And artificial light is to blame. Blue-lit neon signs are particularly confusing to the light-sensitive birds' body clocks, according to Glasgow University's Dr. Davide Dominoni. It's bright all the time, even at night, so the birds (which hunt using their sight above all other senses) can't tell the difference between AM or PM. He shared his findings at last week's annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Dominoni, whose research methods include tracking the robins' sleep patterns by placing cameras in nesting boxes, also acknowledges the noise-pollution theory. Either way, he says, singing all night saps the birds of their energy, and is potentially physiologically harmful, no matter the environmental cause.

The most obvious solution would, sadly, require large cities to consider wildlife more than probably any ever will:

"I think we should reduce the intensity of the light we put out, reduce the amount of light and try to think about the spectrum of the light we are putting out," Dominoni said. "In some cases, we can try to modify the street lamps, by putting shields on top to reduce light pollution."

[Via the BBC]

Photo by Jean-Jacques Boujot



This is the European robin (Erithacus rubecula) that he's talking about, not the bird that most North Americans know as robins (Turdus migratorius).