Increase in song frequency in response to urban noise in the great tit  parus major as shown by data from the Madrid (Spain) city noise map 

Authors: Concepción SALABERRIA and Diego GIL


Published: Volume 57(1), June 2010. Pages 3-11.

Language: English

Keywords: birdsong, habitat adaptation, maximum frequency, minimum frequency, Parus major, strophe length and urban noise


Several studies have identified urban noise effects on animal communication. Birds adjust different characteristics of their songs to avoid the interference from background noise.We have studied whether song frequency characteristics of great tit song in the urban population ofMadrid are related to local noise levels as measured by the city noise map. We recorded the songs of great tits in 22 different locations throughout parks and green areas of the city of Madrid, and analysed the relationship between song characteristics (minimum frequency, maximum frequency, band width, peak frequency per note and strophe length) and the amplitude of urban noise as reported in the noise map of the city available from the Environmental Department of the Madrid City Council. Great tits in noisier locations sang with a higher minimum frequency and narrower bandwidth than in quieter locations. None of the other song components measured (maximum frequency, peak frequency per note or strophe length) covaried with noise levels. An increase in minimum frequency in the song of the great tit is expected to facilitate detection and song perception by conspecifics over the strong levels of low-frequency urban noise. Such song plasticity may be one of the characteristics that allows this species to be a successful urban coloniser. Our data provides a replication of previous studies in the great tit and other species and underlines the usefulness of city noise maps as tools for conservation biology.

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