Date: November 30, 2016
Source: Pacific University (Ore.)
A new study led by Pacific University biologist Chris Templeton demonstrates that the alarm calls of songbirds are dramatically impaired by road traffic noise. Research by Templeton and colleagues has shown that signals critical for the survival of animals are compromised when birds live near even moderately busy roads.
The study appears in the Nov. 21 edition of Current Biology, and notes that "failure of species to detect anti-predator signals could have significant negative consequences for animals living near roads and other sources of anthropogenic noise."
Previous research strongly suggests that noise pollution impacts the ability of birds and other animals to effectively transmit information in their courtship signals. Templeton and his colleagues' findings look at the impact that noise generated by nearby vehicular traffic has on the ability of birds to alert one another of impending danger, such as the presence of predatory species. "When a bird of prey like a hawk or owl is discovered, many species of birds produce alarm calls to warn other individuals in their flock of the impending danger," Templeton said.
In collaboration with Sue Anne Zollinger and Henrik Brumm (Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Germany), Templeton examined how traffic noise affects both how birds produce alarm calls and how other individuals in their flocks respond to them. He and his team researched the behavior of a songbird species named the great tit (Parus major).