Effects of Traffic Noise on Birds

Zebra finch
Zebra finch, by Laurie Boyle, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

Traffic noise affects birds’ foraging skills. Passing cars diminish their ability to find food, according to research published in Proceedings B and reported by the BBC.

The research was carried out by Professor Christopher Templeton of Pacific University in Oregon, USA. He used captive zebra finches (birds native to Australia) and studied them in a behavioural lab. They were given tasks in a quiet setting, and while a recording of road traffic was played.

One of the tasks was retrieving food from beneath leaf-like lids. Another was to find a way into a cylinder with food inside.

‘Just hearing a car drive by is enough to really affect their performance’, said the Professor. ‘They’re almost twice as likely to do [the tasks] correctly if they don’t hear traffic noise.’

‘I think these results are going to be pretty widely applicable to other species. It’s quite sad. It’s getting really, really difficult to find totally quiet environments not touched by human noise.’

Templeton suggests changing road surfaces and tyres to reduce noise and impact the natural world less.

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