Light pollution in many areas can be a threat to seabirds. Young seabirds such as puffins typically follow moonlight after they fledge (begin to fly) so they can end up in the open ocean, where they will spend the next few years of their lives. In places like Witless Bay and Elliston, where there are colonies of Atlantic Puffins, the young puffins can accidentally fly into town because they are attracted to artificial lights (which they mistake for the moon).
Many of these young puffins will not survive, as they will be killed or maimed by predators. They are easy prey on land and not accustomed to having to defend themselves. Additionally, many will be killed in traffic. In some cases, the young birds will even be drawn towards cars due to headlights, making it even more likely that they will not survive the night.
There are many solutions to this problem, but the most effective is to reduce the lighting that is visible outside houses, businesses, and other buildings.
Some guidelines from the International Dark Sky Association (darksky.org) are that lighting should:
Only be on when needed
Only light the area that needs it
Be no brighter than necessary
Minimize blue light emissions
Be fully shielded (pointing downward)
The diagram picture shows the best light fixtures that can be used in our coastal communities where many seabirds are at risk of dying due to this excess artificial light.
Sharing this guide with your residents and local businesses will help keep more puffins and petrels safe. Click the image for a PDF version.
CPAWS Puffin & Petrel Patrol
The Witless Bay Ecological Reserve is home to North America’s largest colony of Atlantic Puffins and the world’s second largest colony of the Leach’s Storm-Petrel, with both having a sum of over 600,000 mating pairs. This ecological reserve runs from the Town of Witless Bay to the Town of Burnt Cove, along the Southern Shore of Newfoundland.
Safely capturing and releasing juvenile puffins and petrels found in coastal communities, is a program run by Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, NL (CPAWS NL). This is a short term solution because it does not tackle the real cause of the problem, artificial light pollution.
Photo credit - Laura King
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