Traffic Noise Endangers Birds By Reducing Their Response To Alarm Calls

Posted: Dec 28 2016, 5:23am CST | by , in Latest Science News

Traffic Noise Endangers Birds by Reducing Their Response to Alarm Calls
A Tufted Titmouse visits a feeding platform as part of an experiment on how traffic noise affects birds' responses to alarm calls. Credit: J. Damsky and M. Gall

Traffic noise affects birds’ response to alarm calls

Our environment gets effected by different pollution elements, including noise. Noise not only affects humans, but also leaves negative impact on birds. Birds depend on sound for communication that gives them info about their surroundings.

A study published in The Condor: Ornithological Applications that shows that birds’ response to alarm calls reduces due to traffic noise. Such alarm calls warn birds about predators.

Megan Gall and Jacob Damsky of New York's Vassar College did an experiment to see the negative impact of traffic noise on Black-capped Chickadees and Tufted Titmice to see their response to alarm calls that warn the birds from predators.

The experts used speakers near feeding birds and recorded birds’ response to three noises, including alarm calls alone, traffic noise alone, and a combination of the two.

The experts found that the traffic noise did not stop birds from feeding, but the birds’ response to alarm calls was 5 times less than those who responded to alarm calls when there was no traffic noise.

Lots of research involves functional effects of anthropogenic noise on vocal production, but less was studied on the response of animals to signals in the presence of traffic noise, said Gall.

Most work focused on songs, but now the experts worked on traffic noise and its effects on bird’s response to alarm calls. Vocalizations develop in the presence of predators that warn the birds.

The research results showed that due to traffic noise, birds are more vulnerable to predators. Human created noise has negative impact on birds, said Gall and Damsky.

But the birds were not affected by music or songs that shows that traffic noise is more polluting the environment, said Rindy Anderson from Florida Atlantic University, who is an expert in vocal communication in birds, but wasn’t involved with the research.

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