Why don't robins get fat?

Dec 21, 2009
Why don't robins get fat?

(PhysOrg.com) -- New research by the School of Biosciences is shedding light on the reasons why the European robin doesn’t get fat -even though they are feeding for much longer.

Artificial light has been present in our environment for a long time. However, it is only recently that research has found that street lighting and other artificial lights, like those coming from buildings, are having adverse affects on many organisms.

Research has already established that bird song is affected by artificial light but until now, little was known about the effects it has on the feeding habits of organisms.

Researcher Alexandra Pollard who is part of the School’s and Ecological Processes Group, has been studying the activities of robins in an attempt to uncover whether increased artificial light affects the amount of food consumed.

Funded by a Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) studentship, Alex found that artificially lit European robins have different activity schedules to those that are under natural conditions. And furthermore, that they have the ability to regulate their body masses differently.

Alexandra said: “We have found that robins under artificial begin their daily activity far earlier than when under natural unlit conditions. However, even though they are active for longer and have food available overnight, they lose a similar amount of body mass to unlit robins - something we didn’t expect to find.”

“We thought that that if food was freely available the robins would consume as much as possible, to maximise their energy reserves, but they gradually consumed their freely-available food over their longer activity period than those under natural conditions.

Although this suggests that streetlights do not adversely affect the robins ability to regulate their , this still does not mean that other aspects of bird behaviour, such as breeding are not affected by lighting. It is important to remember that many other organisms are known to be affected by artificial light, including invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles and mammals, and risks need to be minimised. Further research is therefore needed into the long and short-term consequences of lighting, especially in conservation.”

Alexandra’s work contributed to the recently published Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution report on Artificial Light in the Environment.

Explore further: Norfolk Island's endangered Green Parrot numbers on the rise

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

To protect threatened bat species, street lights out

Jun 18, 2009

Slow-flying, woodland bats -- which tend to be at greater risk from extinction than their speedier kin—really don't like the light, according to a study published online in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication. Lesser ...

Birds' migratory success a complex process

Aug 22, 2005

Magnetic orientation is critical to many birds' migratory success but recent research suggests birds' orientation powers may be more complex than thought.

Recommended for you

Preserving crucial tern habitat in Long Island Sound

7 hours ago

Great Gull Island is home to one of the most important nesting habitats for Roseate and Common terns in the world. The estimated 1,300 pairs of Roseate terns that summer on the 17-acre island at the eastern ...

California's sea otter numbers holding steady

8 hours ago

When a sea otter wants to rest, it wraps a piece of kelp around its body to hold itself steady among the rolling waves. Likewise, California's sea otter numbers are holding steady despite many forces pushing ...

22 elephants poached in Mozambique in two weeks

21 hours ago

Poachers slaughtered 22 elephants in Mozambique in the first two weeks of September, environmentalists said Monday, warning that killing for ivory by organised syndicates was being carried out on an "industrialised" ...

Pakistan releases smuggled turtles into the wild

Sep 22, 2014

Pakistani officials and environmentalists on Monday released some 200 rare turtles into the River Indus after the reptiles were retrieved from a southwestern Chinese town where they were seized by customs ...

User comments : 0