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Humans have greatly impacted the natural nightscape with the invention and usage of artificial light. While much research has been done on the effects of artificial lights on birds, nesting periods have largely been overlooked for research. Previous studies have shown that artificial lights may act as an evolutionary trap during provisioning periods, tricking birds into preferentially investing more in their current broods by simulating longer days that signal a late breeding season, with no shown benefit to nest success. While this effect has been shown during provisioning, the effects of artificial lights on incubation periods have not yet been studied, and the possibility of such a trap being present throughout all of nesting is substantial. Using Tree Swallows, Tachycineta bicolor, I investigated the effects of artificial lights on nest vigilance during incubation, and in turn whether hatching success, length of incubation period, length of nestling period, number of nestlings, and fledging success were affected as a result. Furthermore, I evaluated whether artificial lights acted as an evolutionary trap for breeding Tree Swallows due to an increase in parental investment in the form of nest vigilance during incubation periods without an increase in reproductive success. Parent Tree Swallows of artificially lit nests did not spend longer amounts of time on or off their nests compared to parent Tree Swallows of unlit nests. Incubation period length was significantly longer for lit nests versus unlit nests; however, this was not caused by an increase in off bouts for parental swallows of artificially lit nests. Artificial lighting was not shown to affect hatching success, length of nestling period, or nest success.
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Silverberg, Leah Yve, "How Many Swallows Does it Take to Change a Light Bulb? Effects of Light Pollution on Incubation and Nesting Success of Tree Swallows" (2015). Senior Projects Fall 2015. 16.