As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Traffic noise reduces wild owls' foraging efficiency

Date: September 27, 2016
Source: Hokkaido University

A team of researchers has found that traffic noise reduces the foraging efficiency of wild owls by up to 89 percent. The team's world-first study examined how different levels of such noise affect the hunting efficiency of these nocturnal predators, which employ a keen auditory sense to locate prey in the darkness.

As transportation networks rapidly develop around the world, concerns have been heightening over the adverse effects of traffic noise on wild animals, particularly "acoustic predators," which depend on their acute sense of hearing to catch prey. However, as it is difficult to observe wild owls' nighttime foraging activities, the hypothesis that traffic noise reduces the hunting efficiency of acoustic predators was unsubstantiated prior to this study.

The team of researchers from Hokkaido University's Graduate School of Agriculture, the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute, and California Polytechnic State University developed an artificial prey rustling sound to attract owls and thus facilitate observation of the birds' nighttime hunting pursuits. From December 2014 to March 2015, the team conducted experiments at 103 locations in Yufutsu Plain in Hokkaido and Sendai Plain in Miyagi Prefecture -- both in northern Japan -- where owls overwinter. In the experiments, researchers scrutinized the foraging activities of 78 owls (45 short-eared owls and 33 long-eared owls) while playing back different levels of recorded traffic noise and a constant level of an artificial prey rustling sound.

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