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European blackbirds exposed to aircraft noise advance their chorus, modify their song and spend more time singing

AuthorsSierro, Javier; Schloesing, Elodie; Pavón, Ignacio; Gil, Diego
KeywordsAvian communication
Urban ecology
Behavioral plasticity
Anthropogenic noise
Issue Date30-Jun-2017
PublisherFrontiers Media
CitationFrontiers in Ecology and Evolution 5: 68 (2017)
AbstractNoise pollution has a strong impact on wildlife by disrupting vocal communication or inducing physiological stress. Songbirds are particularly reliant on vocal communication as they use song during territorial and sexual interactions. Birds living in noisy environments have been shown to change the acoustic and temporal parameters of their song presumably to maximize signal transmissibility. Also, research shows that birds advance their dawn chorus in urban environments to avoid the noisiest hours, but little is known on the consequences of these changes in the time they spent singing at dawn. Here we present a comprehensive view of the European blackbird singing behavior living next to a large airport in Madrid, using as a control a population living in a similar but silent forest. Blackbird song is composed of two parts: a series of loud low-frequency whistles (motif) and a final flourish (twitter). We found that airport blackbirds were more likely to sing songs without the twitter part. Also, when songs included a twitter part, airport blackbirds used a smaller proportion of song for the twitter than control blackbirds. Interestingly, our results show no differences in song frequency between airport and control populations. However airport blackbirds not only sang earlier but also increased the time they spent singing when chorus and aircraft traffic overlapped on time. This effect disappeared as the season progressed and the chorus and the aircraft traffic schedule were separated on time. We propose that the typical urban upshift in frequency might not be useful under the noise conditions and landscape structure found near airports. We suggest that the modifications in singing behavior induced by aircraft noise may be adaptive and that they are specific to airport acoustic habitat. Moreover, we found that adjustment of singing activity in relation to noise is plastic and possibly optimized to cope with aircraft traffic activity. In a soundscape characterized by intermittent and strong noise bursts, singing for longer could be more advantageous than modifying frequency parameters, although it is likely more costly.
Description© The Author(s).
Publisher version (URL)https://doi.org/10.3389/fevo.2017.00068
Appears in Collections:(MNCN) Artículos
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