Ineffectiveness of light emitting diodes as underwater deterrents for long-tailed ducks Clangula hyemalis

Jennifer Cantlay, Alexander L. Bond, Alicia M. Wells-Berlin, Rory Crawford, Graham R. Martin, Yann Rouxel, Sharon Peregoy, Kathleen A. McGrew, Steve Portugal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Gillnet bycatch accounts for over 400,000 bird mortalities worldwide every year, affecting a wide variety of species, especially those birds that dive when foraging. Technological solutions to improve gillnet visibility or deter birds from approaching nets, such as LED lights, are essential for aiding diving birds to perceive nets as a hazard. Designing such solutions requires obtaining visual and behavioural ecology information from species in order to assess their ability to see the warning devices and to examine their behavioural responses to them. Seaducks, particularly Long-tailed Ducks Clangula hyemalis, have high bycatch mortality rates. We examined the visual fields of four Long-tailed Ducks to understand their three-dimensional view around the head. The visual field characteristics of this species indicate a reliance on visual guidance for foraging associated with their generalist diet. We subsequently conducted dive tank trials to test the effectiveness of 12 different LED treatments as visual deterrents to the underwater foraging behaviour of Long-tailed Ducks. Ducks were trained to receive food rewards from a specific underwater location in a dive tank and were exposed to each light treatment and the control (no light), in a randomised order, to determine whether the presence of lights affected the foraging success rate of dives. White lights with an increasing flash rate were shown to have a significant positive effect on foraging success, and likely acted as a visual attractant, rather than as a deterrent. No light treatment significantly reduced the foraging success of ducks. We conclude that LED lights did not inhibit the feeding of Long-tailed Ducks. Such lights may be ineffective as underwater visual deterrents when deployed on gillnets and white flashing lights may make foraging sites more attractive to Long-tailed Ducks.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01102
JournalGlobal Ecology and Conservation
Early online date7 May 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 May 2020

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