Anthropogenic noise is of increasing concern to biologists and medical scientists. Its detrimental effects on human health have been well studied, with the high noise levels from air traffic being of particular concern. However, less is known about the effects of airport noise pollution on signal masking in wild animals. Here, we report a relationship between aircraft noise and two major features of the singing behavior of birds. We found that five of ten songbird species began singing significantly earlier in the morning in the vicinity of a major European airport than their conspecifics at a quieter control site. As birds at both sites started singing before the onset of air traffic in the morning, this suggests that the birds in the vicinity of the airport advanced their activity to gain more time for unimpaired singing before the massive plane noise set in. In addition, we found that during the day, chaffinches avoided singing during airplane takeoffs, but only when the noise exceeded a certain threshold, further suggesting that the massive noise caused by the airport can impair acoustic communication in birds. Overall, our study indicates that birds may be adjusting their mating signals and time budgets in response to aircraft noise.
- dawn chorus
- ecological novelty