Human activities could be affecting reproduction and even normal social behaviour.

Birds are even more disrupted by their noisy neighbours than had been thought previously, researchers have found.

And human activities could be preventing birds from reproducing and even developing normal social behaviour and keeping the peace.

A study by Queen’s University Belfast found that when European robins were subjected to human-produced noises their behaviour changed. Background noise appeared to mask the communication of crucial information between birds.

While aggressive communication is common and birds respond to it, interference through noise can lead to the birds mistaking the signals.

nightingale sings

Gareth Arnott, senior lecturer and researcher from the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “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.”

This is the first time it has been shown that aggressive communication is being disrupted by noise.

In the experiment, the team used playbacks of robin song to stimulate responses from birds who were territory holders. Simple or complex songs were used in either the presence or absence of noise.

The researchers found that song complexity was used as a signal of aggressive intent; birds demonstrated higher aggressive intent towards complex rather than simple song. This process was disrupted by the presence of added noise.

Arnott said: “The study is evidence that human-made noise pollution impacts animal habitats and directly influences their ability to communicate properly, which may have implications for survival and population numbers for birds.”

Read the full article here 

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