Birds are adapting to city life

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

IF YOU find mod­ern cities a bit stress­ful, you should spare a thought for our ur­ban wildlife. At­tempts to adapt to liv­ing in built-up ar­eas are hav­ing a dra­matic ef­fect on the well-be­ing of birds, foxes… and mos­qui­toes.

Birds have even de­vel­oped their own “ur­ban mu­sic” – a higher-pitched and faster form of their nor­mal song – a bi­ol­o­gist says.

This is be­cause they have to cope with traf­fic noise, Si­mon Watt told the Chel­tenham Sci­ence Fes­ti­val.

“In gen­eral we can say birds in cities have a cou­ple of things in com­mon,” he said.

“They tend to sing at a higher pitch, they tend to use fewer notes and they tend to sing faster. They have their own ur­ban mu­sic.

“This hap­pens across all the species, they sing at dif­fer­ent times – at night be­cause they’ve got street lights. They are not quite sure when it’s bed­time. It does mean that some of these birds are stressed out.

“This is not evo­lu­tion, this is ac­cli­ma­tis­ing – these crea­tures get­ting used to their new en­vi­ron­ment and adapting to be heard over the low-pitched rum­ble of traf­fic.

“It’s an evo­lu­tion­ary hotspot, per­haps one we’ve ne­glected.

“It’s one that’s eas­i­est to un­der­stand – and we live there too.

“We don’t have to go to Bor­neo to watch evo­lu­tion in ac­tion,” Watt said.

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