According to ecologists at the University of Colorado, some bird species seem to prefer clamorous environments.
Anyone who has woken to a cacophony of squawks and chirps knows that birdsong, no matter how melodious, isn't always a welcome sound. Past research suggests that birds aren't keen on human din either. But a new study finds that not all birds think alike: Some species actually appear to seek out noisy environments.
Among birds, noise does more than annoy. It can hinder their ability to communicate. In fact, some scientists suspect that noise pollution is at least partly responsible for the decline of bird populations. Researchers, however, have had a hard time teasing out the impacts of noise from the impacts of other noise-associated factors, such as traffic and development.
To sort out whether noise alone can affect bird nesting and reproduction, community ecologist Clinton Francis of the University of Colorado, Boulder, and his colleagues spent three summers in the pinyon-juniper woodlands of northwestern New Mexico. They located nests belonging to a variety of bird species on 18 wooded plots adjacent to natural gas extraction wells; they then followed those nests throughout the summer to see whether the hatchlings fledged. The study plots were nearly identical except for one key difference: Half of the natural gas wells had compressors so loud the researchers had to shout to be heard. The other half were quiet.