Posted by: ktzefr | May 29, 2017

Night Lights in the Wild Kingdom

Squirrel; Photo:KFawcett

When God said “Let there be light” the sun came on. No flip of the switch to soft incandescent or to clear, bright flourescent; no hot halogen or the sharp glare of a halide lamp.  No neon.  The sun was perfect.  Is perfect.  These man-made inventions that turn night into day at any hour?  Not so much.

Our neighbor’s motion-detector security lights come on and flood our yard several times a night.  The other night when the yard lit up I looked out the window in time to catch a glimpse of a fox slithering off into the bushes.  The night critters, used to the seasonal darkness of the forest for a predictable number of hours each day, have had to adapt to an unpredictable world.  On the flip side, perhaps the floodlight saved the life of a bunny or chipmunk or a neighborhood cat.

Bunny; Photo:KFawcett

Researchers have known for some time that light at night affects animal behavior.  Here are some of the more common problems with night lights in the wild kingdom:

1) It upsets the opossums and badgers and rodents that forage in the dark; insects that swarm streetlights become instant food for bats.  In some cases, small bats have been pushed out of their habitat because larger bats have been attracted to the mega food supply the insects provide. 

2) In the South Atlantic the glow from a single fishing fleet can be seen from space.  Squid fishermen lure their prey with metal halide lamps.  They burn a light that shines brighter than the cities of Buenos Aires or Rio! 

3) When there’s a lot of artificial light, birds sing at unnatural hours.  These long “artificial” days cause early breeding behavior in some and alter migration schedules.  Sometimes migrating early can be deadly.  If birds arrive too soon for nesting conditions to be right, the whole cycle is affected.

4) Sea turtles like dark beaches where the brightest light is the moon reflecting on the sea.  Hatchlings naturally gravitate toward the sea horizon.  But they get confused when the artificial light of resort areas or towns lure them the wrong way and thousands are lost every year.

5) Frogs and toads that live in city spaces or along brightly lit roadways suffer as well.  I was reading the other day that the light from these sources can be as much as a million times brighter than a frog’s normal habitat.  It can throw every aspect of their behavior out of rhythm, including their nighttime breeding choruses.

Tree frog; Photo:KFawcett

It has rained here off and on for several days.  I came out last night after the rain had stopped.  Night was falling naturally.  Rainwater still dripping from the trees.  Bushes and ivy, periwinkle and May apple, petunia blooms and marigold buds were all soaked.  And, in this wet world at the edge of dark, I was greeted by a full chorus of tree frogs from our yard and the neighbors’ yards and beyond.  I could close my eyes and slip away to the rain forest where the only light comes from the sun…

at least until some night critter decided to stroll beneath the neighbor’s motion detector.













  1. Always interesting!

    Sent from my iPad


  2. Mayla, I’m sure you have lots of critters and frog song in those lovely hills.

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