Robin redbreasts serenade the night

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The Independent Online
Some 10,000 robins sang in the New Year in the middle of the night - for Britain's national bird is being turned into a nocturnal species by light pollution.

The British Trust for Ornithology, the country's leading avian research organisation, says increased lighting is providing false dawns for the country's most popular, and most aggressive, bird. It says there has been an "explosive" growth in reports of robins singing during what used to be the hours of darkness and estimates that, at any time on any night, 10,000 of the birds are chirping away across Britain.

The first reports of nocturnal robins emerged from towns and suburbia, where they sang under street lights. But the spread of lighting of main roads and, particularly, the growth of security lighting around houses has spread the phenomenon into the countryside as well.

The Trust has also recorded other species - including blackbirds, thrushes, wrens, dunnocks, and even carrion crows - serenading artificial lighting, but the robins account for over 90 per cent of the reports.

The explanation lies in the extreme aggressiveness of the redbreasts, who were chosen as Britain's national bird in 1961. Fiercely territorial, the malessing to warn away rivals and they are the first to strike up in the dawn chorus, responding to the first traces of light.