Science News

Naked Truth About What Birds Get Up to at Night

Sat, 13th Jul 2002

Part of the show Phosphorus, spontaneous human combustion, marsh gas and will-o-the-wisp

A local birdwatcher has shown that efforts to conserve birds could be failing, simply because we don't know what they get up to at night. Using special night vision viewing equipment like infrared lamps, Simon Gillings from The University of East Anglia has found out some amazing things about the nightlife of lapwings and plovers feeding on arable land in this region. The birds were not thought to be nocturnal, but Simon has shown that they may get up to three-quarters of their food at night. "The never seem to sleep," he says. Significantly, at night there are no gulls around to steal their meals, but they are more likely o bump into foxes. Simon has also shown that, just like humans, the birds prefer different snacks at night. In the daytime they fed on cereal fields, but at night the Plovers preferred oil-seed rape, whereas the lapwings headed for fields of sugarbeet stubble !

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