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Birds living near airports advance their dawn chorus and reduce overlap with aircraft noise

AuthorsGil, Diego ; Honarmand, Mariam; Pascual, Javier ; Pérez-Mena, Eneider; Macías García, Constantino
Bird song
Down chorus
Acoustic pollution
Issue DateMar-2015
PublisherOxford University Press
CitationBehavioral Ecology 26(2): 435- 443 (2015)
Abstract© 2014 The Author 2014. Anthropogenic noise is a major pollutant for organisms that live in urban areas. City birds modify their songs in ways that can increase their communication potential in spite of noise. However, these changes cannot prevent song masking by the extremely loud noises to which some urban bird populations are exposed. Here, we show that birds near a major airport advance their dawn singing time, thus reducing overlap with periods of intense aircraft noise. This modification was stronger in species whose normal singing time was relatively late, those which overlapped the most with aircraft noise. Although suggestive of a causal relationship, this pattern does not allow us to tell apart the effect of aircraft noise from that of other variables that may correlate with dawn singing time. In order to control for such potentially confounding variables, we replicated the study in several airports at different latitudes in Spain and Germany. The results show that indeed the overlap of song chorus with aircraft noise was the key factor that influenced time advancement. Aircraft traffic time was the main predictor of song advancement: across Europe, those bird populations whose singing time overlapped the most with aircraft traffic were those that advanced their song timing to a higher extent. Our results exemplify how behavioral plasticity may allow the survival of avian populations in areas of high noise pollution. However, such an adaptation likely involves departing from optimal singing times, leading to higher energetic costs and amplifying between-species differences in competitive ability and resilience.
Identifiersdoi: 10.1093/beheco/aru207
issn: 1465-7279
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