Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Cities Change The Songs Of Birds

Date:
December 5, 2006
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
By studying the songs of a bird species that has succeeded in adapting to urban life, researchers have gained insight into the kinds of environmental pressures that influence where particular songbirds thrive, and the specific attributes of city birds that allow them to adjust to noisy urban environments. The findings, reported by Hans Slabbekoorn and Ardie den Boer-Visser of Leiden University, appear in the December 5 issue of Current Biology.

Photo of great tit, Parus major.
Credit: Photo Malene Thyssen, www.mtfoto.dk/malene/ -- courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

By studying the songs of a bird species that has succeeded in adapting to urban life, researchers have gained insight into the kinds of environmental pressures that influence where particular songbirds thrive, and the specific attributes of city birds that allow them to adjust to noisy urban environments. The findings, reported by Hans Slabbekoorn and Ardie den Boer-Visser of Leiden University, appear in the December 5th issue of Current Biology.

In the new work, the researchers studied songs of the great tit (Parus major), a successful urban-dwelling species, in the center of ten major European cities, including London, Prague, Paris, and Amsterdam. The researchers then compared these songs to those of great tits in nearby forest sites. The results of the comparison showed that for songs important for mate attractions and territory defense, the urban songs were shorter and sung faster than the forest songs. The urban songs also showed an upshift in frequency that is consistent with the need to compete with low-frequency environmental noise, such as traffic noise.

Anthropogenic Impact on Signals Used by Wild Birds

Earlier work, from Dr. Slabbekoorn and another coauthor, had shown that songs of individual birds were adjusted to local traffic noise conditions. The researchers had shown that great tit males in territories with loud low-frequency noise used fewer low-frequency song notes compared to nearby individuals in quieter territories. That single-population study, in Leiden, The Netherlands, included only urban birds, but territory conditions ranged from very quiet to very noisy. The earlier study predicted the possibility that in general, great tits in noisy cities sing higher than great tits in quieter forests: In other words, songs undergo a habitat-dependent acoustic shift in cities that is driven by traffic noise.

With the new findings, Slabbekoorn and den Boer-Visser confirm this prediction and also identify several additional acoustic features that have diverged between city and forest birds. The findings also offer strong support for a theory known as the acoustic-adaptation hypothesis, which states that some aspects of the vocal variety of animal communication sounds are shaped by the environment. The authors point out that song divergence within a species as a result of such "environmental shaping" could potentially play a crucial role in the process of speciation, although it is not at all clear whether urban and forest populations of great tits are on such a path.

Conservation Implications: Adjust or Leave

Speciation takes place over long, evolutionary time scales, but major shifts in a region's bird population, including extinction, can take place here and now. Urbanization typically leads to a turnover in species composition such that those species occurring in the original habitat are replaced by those that cope well with urban conditions. Many species do not live in cities and do not breed close to highways, and indeed the birds of urbanized areas are highly similar: The same few species become common everywhere, while the area's original species variety is lost. The new study, which focuses on an urban "survivor," provides some insight into the mechanism behind the homogenizing impact of the urban environment. The capacity of great tits to sing within a relatively wide frequency range, and the ability to adjust songs by leaving out lower frequencies, seems critical to the bird's ability to thrive despite urban noise. Species without these capacities may have no other choice than to escape city life.

The researchers include Hans Slabbekoorn and Ardie den Boer-Visser of Leiden University in Leiden, The Netherlands.

This work was supported by a Postdocs Universitaire Loopbaan Stimuleringsprogramma (PULS) grant from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO, ALW-project 831.48.006). Audio tapes were supplied by TDK Recording Media Europe S.A., Luxembourg.

Slabbekoorn et al.: "Cities Change the Songs of Birds." Publishing in Current Biology 16, 2326--2331, December 5, 2006 DOI 10.1016/j.cub.2006.10.008. http://www.current-biology.com


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "Cities Change The Songs Of Birds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 December 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/12/061204123551.htm>.
Cell Press. (2006, December 5). Cities Change The Songs Of Birds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/12/061204123551.htm
Cell Press. "Cities Change The Songs Of Birds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/12/061204123551.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) He is leading a one man agricultural revolution in Mali - Oumar Diatabe uses traditional farming methods to get the most out of his land and is teaching others across the country how to do the same. Duration: 01:44 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Buzz60 (Oct. 20, 2014) An entomologist stumbled upon a South American Goliath Birdeater. With a name like that, you know it's a terrifying creepy crawler. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Adorable Video of Baby Rhino and Lamb Friend Playing

Adorable Video of Baby Rhino and Lamb Friend Playing

Buzz60 (Oct. 20, 2014) Gertjie the Rhino and Lammie the Lamb are teaching the world about animal conservation and friendship. TC Newman (@PurpleTCNewman) has the adorable video! Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins