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Where are they landing? Mapping seabird fallout from artificial lighting in Auckland, New Zealand

Ariel-Micaiah Heswall1*, Lynn Miller2, Ellery McNaughton1, Amy Brunton-Martin3, Kristal Cain1, Megan Friesen4, Anne Gaskett1

1 School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland, Building 110, Room 256B, 3A Symonds Street, Auckland 1010, New Zealand /Te Kura Mātauranga Koiora, Waipapa Taumata Rau, Aotearoa.,,,                                                                                                                                                      2 BirdCare Aotearoa, Avonleigh Road, Green Bay, Auckland 0604, New Zealand.

3 Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, Auckland 1072, New Zealand.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             4 Department of Biology, Saint Martin’s University, 5000 Abbey Way SE, Lacey, WA 98503, United States.

*  Student presentation

One of the most highly threatened animal groups are the seabirds. Seabirds are at risk from an array of threats including light pollution. Artificial light at night (ALAN) is a growing concern for seabirds as they become disoriented and grounded by the lights. Fledglings are especially susceptible to artificial lights. The Hauraki Gulf, a seabird hotspot, is located near Tamaki Makaurau/Auckland, which is Aotearoa New Zealand’s largest urban city with considerable ALAN, and regularly documented events of seabird groundings. We aim to identify the locations especially prone to seabird groundings in the Auckland region, and test for correlations between this seabird fallout and ALAN. Using the Wildlife Medical Rehabilitation Database we mapped seabird fallout in Auckland between 2018-2021. We also mapped the seabird fallout against the predicted night sky brightness/night sky quality. We found that the greater the light pollution, the greater the chance of a seabird becoming grounded. Also, there were differences in groundings between the urban and rural areas of Auckland for the different species. For example, the Cook’s petrel had the greatest fall-out in the urban areas compared to the other seabird species. This is potentially due the Cook’s petrel fledglings crossing over the Auckland isthmus on their migration route to the Tasman Sea. Different species could have differences in their visual ecology and breeding locations which may influence light attraction. Greater awareness of seabird groundings from light attraction in Auckland is needed to generate a larger database of the location of seabird groundings across Auckland.