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Experimental evidence for an impact of anthropogenic noise on dawn chorus timing in urban birds


A. Arroyo-Solís, Dept of Vegetal Biology and Ecology, Univ. of Seville, Ap. 1095, ES-41080 Seville, Spain. E-mail:


Many animal species are living in urban areas, where they encounter human-altered environmental conditions. Artificial light and traffic noise are two of the most prominent anthropogenic factors, both of which potentially affect animal life. Here we studied the changes in traffic noise conditions over the morning in the urban bird habitat of the city of Seville, Spain. We tested experimentally whether noise from human activities can cause a shift in the timing of birdsong activity. Our data revealed that noise conditions vary markedly among our replicate set of twelve streets. Relatively quiet streets show low base-line amplitude levels early in the morning, with frequent events of brief noise bursts, followed by a strong rise in noise levels. Relatively noisy streets have high base-line amplitude levels from a much earlier start in the morning. Experimental exposure data revealed a noise-related earlier start of dawn singing for two out of six species: the spotless starling Sturnus unicolor and the house sparrow Passer domesticus. Our experiment did not cover earlier singing species and revealed no impact for species with more-variable starting times of the dawn singing. Our study provides more insight into the intertwinings of bird and human behavior and confirms the potential for experimental approaches to successfully tackle questions related to the impact of anthropogenic factors on animal life in cities.