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Urban Birds Change Their Tune

They have to compete with noises of the city!

The soft whistles of this Great Tit, a common European bird, can be hard to hear over city noises. So these birds now sing at a higher pitch and faster than normal. This song carries better over the traffic noise of the city. A bird singing at a higher range is better able to declare its territory and attract a mate. The songs of these urban birds are also faster, probably so they can be repeated more often. Read more about city bird song research done in the UK.

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Full Transcript

Transcript: 
BirdNote®
Urban Birds Change Their Tune

Written by Dennis Paulson

This is BirdNote.
[Normal Great Tit song from forest, with low and high notes]
This is the song of a Great Tit, one of the most familiar sounds of the European spring. The Great Tit, a relative of our chickadee, is common in the forests of Europe. Its song is more varied than the simple whistles of our chickadees. [Great Tit song from forest, F from Slabbekoorn]
 Great Tits are also common in city gardens, where the sounds of the city [Some traffic noises here] can make the soft whistles of songbirds hard to hear. As a consequence, Great Tits in London, Paris, and Berlin have modified their behavior. They now sing at a higher pitch and faster than normal. One way they do this is to drop the lower-pitched notes from their song. [Urban Great Tit song, E from Slabbekoorn]
Such a song carries better over the traffic noise of the city. And a bird that has shifted to a higher range is better able to declare its territory and attract a mate. Urban songs are also faster, probably so they can be repeated more often. Let’s listen to a forest bird [F from Slabbekoorn], and now its city cousin [E from Slabbekoorn]. Once again, the forest bird [F from Slabbekoorn]. And now the city bird [E from Slabbekoorn].
Listen to BirdNote any time and place you like when you subscribe to our podcast. Begin at our website, BirdNote.org. I’m Michael Stein.
###
First two songs of the Great Tit and ambient European garden recorded by Martyn Stewart, naturesound.org
Urban / Forest Great Tit (“E” and “F”) comparison songs recorded by Hans Slabbekoorn: Leiden University, Netherlands.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2013 Tune In to Nature.org            March 2013        Narrator: Michael Stein

ID# 032707GRTIKPLU  GRTI-01b

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