Effects of Noise Pollution on Songbird Behavior

Hello everyone! My name is Sophia Palia and I am a rising senior Biology major at the College. I am so excited to be starting my Honors project this summer studying the effects of noise pollution on songbird behavior. I want to thank everyone who contributed to my project and helped make this opportunity possible. In this first blog post, I would like to introduce you to my project studying zebra finches at the aviary near campus.

Noise pollution is an increasingly prevalent anthropogenic stressor that has detrimental effects on wildlife. Songbirds, in particular, are sensitive to noise pollution as they are inherently vocal animals. We know that noise affects how birds sing and breed, but we know far less about how noise might influence patterns of within-species dominance and aggression, and the trade-offs between feeding and vigilance. In my project, I will be using a “sonic net,” a device that emits noise overlapping with frequencies of bird calls, which masks communication and represents noise pollution. I will be exposing this noise pollution at varying degrees to sets of zebra finches to try to better understand how disruptive noise pollution affects patterns of aggression, expressions of social dominance, and the foraging/vigilance energy trade-off in this model system for songbirds.

As I begin my project, I am setting up the cage system and performing a series of pilot studies to test my methodology. I look forward to keeping you updated on my progress!

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