Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Birds sing louder amidst the noise and structures of the urban jungle

Date:
February 22, 2012
Source:
University of Copenhagen
Summary:
Sparrows, blackbirds and the great tit are all birds known to sing at a higher pitch in urban environments. It was previously believed that these birds sang at higher frequencies in order to escape the lower frequencies noises of the urban environment. Now, researchers have discovered that besides noise, the physical structure of cities also plays a role in altering the birds' songs.

Urban birds sing differently and at a higher frequency than woodland birds in an effort to penetrate the wall of constant noise produced by traffic, machines and human activity. Researchers found that architecture also has a profound affect on their songs.
Credit: to-fo / Fotolia

Sparrows, blackbirds and the great tit are all birds known to sing at a higher pitch (frequency) in urban environments. It was previously believed that these birds sang at higher frequencies in order to escape the lower frequencies noises of the urban environment. Now, researchers at the University of Copenhagen and the University of Aberystwyth have discovered that besides noise, the physical structure of cities also plays a role in altering the birds' songs.

Urban birds sing differently and at a higher frequency than woodland birds in an effort to penetrate the wall of constant noise produced by traffic, machines and human activity. However, architecture also has a profound affect on their songs. The study findings have recently been published in the journal PLoS One.

A new explanation

"Urban architecture is a crucial determinant of how urban birds sing." Noise amidst the urban landscape is typically composed of lower frequencies. Thus, one might jump to the conclusion that it would be smart for birds to distinguish their song by singing louder in order to drown out the competing noise. However, the recent study demonstrates that the noise explanation is incomplete, according to Professor Torben Dabelsteen of the Section for Ecology and Evolution at the University of Copenhagen's Department of Biology, one of the authors of the study.

The city's role in the song

Some researchers have never really bought into the idea that urban noise alone caused birds in the city to sing at higher frequencies. Either directly, because birds tried to sing at a higher tone and away from noise or indirectly, by the birds singing louder to drown out anthropogenic noise.

"Now, with the help of controlled sound recordings, we have shown that the higher frequencies in urban birds' songs are also transmitted across cities when there isn't any noise from traffic. This shows that the physical structure of cities must play a considerable role in the heightened frequencies," explains Torben Dabelsteen.

Structures and variations in the cityscape -- houses, streets, open spaces and alleys -- all serve to reflect and distort noise in differing ways, things that birds must take into account. Birds in the urban environment can easily spot one another, but must do what they can to reduce echoes from buildings and narrow streets in order to penetrate and communicate effectively.

High-pitched urban birds

Birds living beyond the urban landscape need not tweet away with full force. While the woodland's trees and abundant foliage also distort sound through reflection, they also serve to obstruct clear lines of sight. Therefore, rural birds may utilize these distortions to help judge distances and locate one another.

"City-dwellers can look forward to the lively song of birds in the coming spring, and even though a side effect of the urban birds' more powerful song is that they sing at a higher pitch, this is something that we are not typically able to hear," explains Dabelsteen.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Emily J. Mockford, Rupert C. Marshall, Torben Dabelsteen. Degradation of Rural and Urban Great Tit Song: Testing Transmission Efficiency. PLoS ONE, 2011; 6 (12): e28242 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0028242

Cite This Page:

University of Copenhagen. "Birds sing louder amidst the noise and structures of the urban jungle." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 February 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120222132930.htm>.
University of Copenhagen. (2012, February 22). Birds sing louder amidst the noise and structures of the urban jungle. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120222132930.htm
University of Copenhagen. "Birds sing louder amidst the noise and structures of the urban jungle." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120222132930.htm (accessed April 21, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, April 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Mich. Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth

Mich. Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth

Newsy (Apr. 20, 2014) A 9-year-old Michigan boy was exploring a creek when he came across a 10,000-year-old tooth from a prehistoric mastodon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) Dairy farmers and ethnic groups in Vermont are both benefiting from a unique collaborative effort that's feeding a growing need for fresh and affordable goat meat. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Andy Dixon showed the Daily Mail a screenshot of what he believes to be the mythical beast swimming just below the lake's surface. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Not only are these newly discovered bugs' sex organs reversed, but they also mate for up to 70 hours. Video provided by Newsy
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:
from the past week

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