It’s a challenge for birds to sing through the loud hum of traffic. Many just belt it out, but not all birds. Great Tits, Song Sparrows and House Finches that live in a city sing at a higher pitch than their country cousins. And European Robins in cities sing more at night, when there is less of a din. Remember all that hard work next time you hear a bird singing in the city!
Singing in the City
Written by Wenfei Tong
This is BirdNote.
[Loud City SFX]
Noise pollution in a city can be exhausting for people. It’s also a unique challenge for birds trying to sing through the loud hum of traffic. Many birds just belt it out, but there are other ways to be heard. Great Tits, Song Sparrows and House Finches that live in a city sing at a higher pitch than their country cousins.
[City SFX fade out ]
Other city birds alter their timing. The nightingales of Berlin sing more loudly on weekdays than on weekends...
[Common Nightingale https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/243458661#_ga=2.52589423.675775384.16… :40-:44]
...While European Robins in cities sing more at night, when there is less of a din. Urban noise drowns out the nuances of a competitor’s song, compromising a robin’s judgment of potential rivals.
[European robin https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/286052401#_ga=2.81492816.675775384.16… :09-:13]
During the 2020 pandemic-induced pause in noise pollution, many city-dwellers thought birds were singing louder — but it was actually that birdsong was just far easier to hear. In fact, some birds, like White-crowned Sparrows, reverted to a gentler volume, singing more softly and with more information in their songs than when they had to compete with the incessant roar of urban life.
[White-crowned sparrow https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/265391181#_ga=2.43096930.675775384.16… 1:48-1:59]
Next time a bit of birdsong breaks through the noise in the city to reach your ears, think of the extra grit and ingenuity that bird had to muster to be heard.
For BirdNote, I’m Wenfei Tong.
Senior Producer: John Kessler
Production Manager: Allison Wilson
Producer: Mark Bramhill
Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Common Nightingale ML243458661 C. Moning
European Robin ML286052401 P. Boesman
White-crowed Sparrow ML265391181 A Spencer
BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
© 2021 BirdNote March 2021 Narrator: Wenfei Tong
ID# sound-25-2021-03-18 sound-25