birding-aus An effect of Full Moon

Subject: birding-aus An effect of Full Moon
From: (Syd Curtis)
Date: Fri, 29 Jan 1999 21:07:44 +1000

Victoria Quinton, 29 Jan 1999, gave some interesting information about full
moons.  Her subject line asked "does the moon influence birds at all?"

Yes, Victoria, it does.  With emphasis on your "at all", I offer one very
specific example which may or may not hint at a more general application.

I was studying Albert Lyrebirds and for the breeding seasons of 1969 -
1972, spent a lot of time "observing" (= listening to) one individual on
Tamborine Mountain.  The first few hours of the day are when most of the
interesting behavioural events take place, and I tried to get into his
territory before he commenced the day's activity whenever opportunity arose
for me to visit him.  He was a creature of habit.  I knew where he roosted
and I knew where on most days he would fly to a lower tree, before finally
flying to the ground.

I often stood with tape recorder under the low tree, as a consequence of
which I have the possibly unique, if unenviable, distinction of having been
defaecated on by a wild lyrbird.  I even have a tape-recording of the
event.  Fortunately it was not a direct hit - his dropping hit a branch
above me a sprayed around.  (And no, he didn't know I was there, so it
wasn't simply criciticsm of my research abilities!)

And what has this to do with the full moon?  I'm coming to that.

As I say, he was a creature of habit, and you could just about set your
watch by him during June-July when day length was not varying appreciably.
He, and I assume other lyrebirds, were usually the last species to call
each morning.  No use being an early riser when it's still too dark for
safety on the ground.  If the weather was fine (and winter is the dry
season there so it usually was fine) at 06:15 EST he'd give his first call
for the day ... except just after full moon.  Then sometimes he'd be late.
His territory had a westerly aspect and I reckon the bright illumination
from the setting moon disguised the onset of dawn.  I guess if I'd been a
good scientist, I would have noted times for other species, to see if they
were similarly affected.  Alas, I did not.

Probably not the sort of influence you are looking for, Victoria, but an
influence of sorts, just the same.

Syd Curtis at Hawthorne, Qld.

H Syd Curtis

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