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Can colored lights decrease aircraft bird strikes?

Cara J

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LED lights have been proposed for use in airplanes to reduce bird strikes, but would these lights actually cause avoidance behavior in birds? Researchers recently tested how different wavelengths of light affect the behavior of brown-headed cowbirds (Molothrus ater), a species that has been involved in bird strikes. “If birds can detect aircraft earlier because of the lights, hopefully they can do avoidance maneuvers earlier and decrease the chance of bird strikes,” said Esteban Fernandez-Juricic, a professor of biological sciences at Purdue University and lead author of the study published in PeerJ. While researchers have found that lights on aircraft enhance detection from birds, they hadn’t studied if they lead to avoidance behavior, Fernandez-Juricic said. In this study, he and his colleagues took information from their previous papers on how brown-headed cowbirds perceive light and used mathematical models to estimate which wavelengths are more conspicuous to them. Determining that UV, blue, green and red portions of the spectrum stimulate cowbird retina to a large degree, the team tested avoidance behaviors. They also included white lights in the study, since those are often used on aircraft. The team released the birds into an enclosure where they could make a decision to [...]

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