Conservation trends

Noisy Traffic and Birds Don’t Mix

It's beautiful to drive down scenic roads, but probably best done in a quiet car for the birds' sake.

It’s beautiful to drive down scenic roads, but probably best done in a quiet car for the birds’ sake.

We often think of roads being a barrier to walking wildlife because animals can get run over, but new research shows that even the sounds of traffic is bad.

Near the Idaho Bird Observatory, scientists put in a “phantom road” and played traffic sounds over speakers along a stretch of habitat that was otherwise undisturbed. They played the noise for 4 days at a time and then alternated with days of quiet. Some species of migratory birds didn’t come near the area at all while the noise was playing and for other species, their numbers declined by almost 25%.

This shows that even in the absence of vehicular threat, car and truck noise is detrimental to wildlife. So, perhaps we should close the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway through Prairie Creek and offer horse-drawn hay rides for the public and the birds to enjoy instead!

Reference: C. J. W. McClure, H. E. Ware, J. Carlisle, G. Kaltenecker, J. R. Barber. An experimental investigation into the effects of traffic noise on distributions of birds: avoiding the phantom road. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2013; 280 (1773): 20132290 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2013.2290

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