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Immediate spectral flexibility in singing chiffchaffs during experimental exposure to highway noise

  • Machteld Verzijden
  • E. A. P. Ripmeester
  • V. R. Ohms
  • P. Snelderwaard
  • H. Slabbekoorn
Publiceringsår: 2010
Språk: Engelska
Sidor: 2575-2581
Publikation/Tidskrift/Serie: Journal of Experimental Biology
Volym: 213
Nummer: 15
Dokumenttyp: Artikel i tidskrift
Förlag: The Company of Biologists Ltd


Sound plays an important role in the life of many animals, including many bird species. Typically, male birds sing to defend a territory and to attract mates. Ambient noise may negatively affect the signal efficiency of their songs, which may be critical to reproductive success. Consequently, anthropogenic noise may be detrimental to individual birds and to populations in cities and along highways. Several bird species that are still common in urban areas have been shown to sing at higher frequency at locations where there is more low-frequency traffic noise. Here we show that chiffchaffs along noisy highways also sing with a higher minimum frequency than chiffchaffs nearby at a quiet riverside. Furthermore, through experimental exposure to highway noise we show that these birds are capable of making such adjustments over a very short time scale. The first 10 songs sung during the noise exposure revealed an immediate shift to higher frequencies, with a return to pre-exposure levels in recordings without noise the following day. In a transmission re-recording experiment we tested the impact of a potential measurement artifact by recording playback of the same songs repeatedly under different controlled noise conditions. We found an upward shift in the minimum frequency measurement associated with more noisy recordings of the same song, but this artifact was not of a scale that it could explain the noise-dependent spectral shifts in chiffchaffs.


  • Biological Sciences
  • experimental exposure
  • anthropogenic noise
  • birdsong
  • masking avoidance
  • frequency shift


  • ISSN: 1477-9145

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