It is evident that widespread land use and land cover change, including increasing urbanization, are altering ecological processes. One modification gaining attention is increased anthropogenic noise associated with cities. To examine potential impacts of rising anthropogenic noise, we conducted an acoustic analysis of Brown-headed Nuthatch (Sitta pusilla) and Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus) vocalizations in Greenville Co., South Carolina as a function of a gradient of increasing traffic noise. Our data demonstrate that even moderate levels of noise may alter the structure of avian vocalizations. In particular, the minimum frequency of the Brown-headed Nuthatch vocalization shifted upward to avoid acoustic overlap with the noise associated with vehicular traffic. Understanding the impacts of noise created by urbanization on songbird vocalizations provides insight into the altered soundscape as well as ecosystem health. Thus, it is essential that we monitor and understand the impacts of anthropogenic noise and implement effective city planning strategies to improve urban ecosystems. In addition, the evidence of birds’ response to increased traffic noise serves as a starting point to begin dialog between researchers and practitioners across environmental and public health fields.

EATO.zip (288 kB)
BNHU low noise.zip (212 kB)
BNHU high noise.zip (256 kB)