Noise pol­lu­tion ham­pers bird com­mu­ni­ca­tion

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Wild Comment - Si­mon Birch FIND OUT MORE Read the re­port in Bi­ol­ogy Let­ters: bit.ly/n-pol­lu­tion

Api­oneer­ing study has shown that noise pol­lu­tion is hav­ing a far greater im­pact on birds than pre­vi­ously thought and could be in­ter­fer­ing with their song com­mu­ni­ca­tion – and con­se­quently their be­hav­iour and breed­ing.

“Singing is one of the most com­mon ways birds ad­ver­tise that a ter­ri­tory be­longs to them, and birds will perch near the edge of their ter­ri­tory to broad­cast their claim to the max­i­mum range,” says Gareth Arnott of Queen’s Univer­sity Belfast. “A strong, vi­brant song will help de­fend a ter­ri­tory from in­trud­ers and at­tract a mate,” he adds.

Noise pol­lu­tion was found to di­min­ish the abil­ity of robins to hear each other clearly and dis­tin­guish be­tween dif­fer­ent as­pects of a po­ten­tial ri­val’s song.

“We found that bird song struc­ture can com­mu­ni­cate ag­gres­sive in­tent, en­abling birds to as­sess their op­po­nent, but hu­man-made noise can dis­rupt this cru­cial in­for­ma­tion passed be­tween them by mask­ing the com­plex­ity of their songs used for ac­quir­ing re­sources, such as ter­ri­tory and space for nest­ing,” he says.

It is thought that this could be a prob­lem for all song­birds, in­clud­ing thrushes, tits and war­blers.

Robins are well known for their dis­tinc­tive song, but are they be­ing drowned out?

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