The Impacts of Light Spill on Lancelin’s Seabirds

Earlier in May, the rescue of two fledgling Wedge-tailed Shearwaters from seafront buildings came as a reminder of Lancelin’s light spill problem.

Approaching fledgling, seabirds nesting in burrows will come to the opening of their burrows and prepare themselves for their leap of faith toward the moon on the horizon. However, these young birds can accidentally mistake artificial lights for the moon, causing them to fly disoriented in the wrong direction. This often results in fledglings becoming stuck on the mainland, or injured from collisions with man-made structures.

A fledgling Wedge-tailed Shearwater ready for release.

Lancelin Island is home to three burrow-nesting seabird colonies, including an estimated 6,000 pairs of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, up to 100 pairs of Little Shearwaters, and at least 35,000 pairs of White-faced Storm-petrels. The Wedge-tailed Shearwater chicks fledge in early May, Little Shearwaters in late October, and the Storm-petrels in February. During these times, light spill will cause many young birds to be stranded, a tragedy that can be readily solved by directing bright lights away from both the sea and Lancelin Island.

Stranded fledglings can be identified by their residual downy feathers, and if found, will need to be inspected for injuries. Injured fledglings can be reported to Seabird Rescue on (08) 61 028 464. Uninjured birds should be released as soon as possible, ideally in daylight and from a jetty or an offshore boat to ensure a fresh breeze helps them in becoming airborne.

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