Section 1

Urban birds raise their voices over the din
July 17, 2003

Great tits (Parus major) in noisy cities generally sing higher notes than their counterparts in quieter locations. Urban birds could use the ploy to ensure that their mating calls are heard above the racket. Writing in a Brief Communication in the July 17, 2003 Nature, Hans Slabbekoorn and Margriet Peet report that great tits in Leiden, The Netherlands, sing songs with higher minimum frequencies if their territory is noisy. Birds in quieter spots, on the other hand, more often dip to the bottom of their vocal register. Great tits commonly adjust their songs once they have claimed a breeding territory, the authors point out. City-dwelling birds may therefore be tailoring their songs to ensure maximum success against the background of low-frequency urban rumblings. The researchers add that species lacking the ability to adapt in this way may find it difficult to breed in built-up areas, and could decline as a result.

“Birds sing at a higher pitch in urban noise,” Hans Slabbekoorn, Margriet Peet, Nature, July 17, 2003 - Abstract © 2003 Nature

Hans Slabbekoorn, Leiden University, The Netherlands