Human Journey

Scientists Link Urban Noise To Decline In City Songbirds

Photo by Buck Lovell.


Those of us who live in urban areas can get so accustomed to noise that we barely notice it.  But it’s a fact: cities are loud.  All that noise can have a deleterious effect on our lives, making it harder to sleep, relax, and stay focused.  Humans aren’t the only ones negatively impacted by urban noise though.  Scientists in Canada recently released a study linking high levels of anthropogenic noise to a decline in the diversity of city songbirds.

Researchers looked at seven species of songbirds at more than 100 sites in and around the city of Edmonton.  After accounting for factors such as vegetation and food sources, the team reviewed their data and discovered a correlation:  the higher the levels of noise, the fewer the species of songbirds.

Birds that sing at lower frequencies are particularly affected.  That’s because a great deal of urban noise comes from traffic – another low-frequency noise.  The competing sounds can interfere with female songbirds’ ability to hear the songs of male birds, thereby interrupting the mating process.  The result, not surprisingly, is fewer offspring.

All this goes to show that creating green spaces for songbirds might not be enough to help them thrive in our cities.  We may need to spend more time making quiet spaces as well.  It would probably be good for all of us.

 For all the latest science news, check out our twice-weekly news rundown, Earth Current.

Alyson Foster works in the National Geographic Library where she purchases books for the Library’s collection and assists NG staff with finding research materials.
  • Canan Arın

    A very realistic research.Due to the rapid growth in the World population ,urban noise became an inevitable end for all the living creatures.We all need a more quiet life and serenity.I believe that it was the main factor which keeps the balance of nature,with all that noise we also feel the disturbing effect of the time pass too quickly which is just a mental illusion.

  • aurora

    I’m from a small quiet island. I spent 7 years in London, and just has to leave and return to the country. Cities are aweful. My garden is full of birds, squirrels, deer…etc… Love it. Got 10 wild doves you also took residence. I’m surrounded by woodland,paradise.

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