How city life affects the way birds sing

bird song

The Biologist 62(3) p20-23

Cities are home to more than half the people on our planet. The global population is growing at a faster rate than ever before and, by 2025, more than 60% of the world's population will live in a concrete jungle.

Our ever expanding cities are putting pressure on the species that remain in and around this urban environment. Songbirds are one group particularly well studied and, over the past 15 years or so, biologists have discovered fascinating behavioural adaptations that have allowed some species to become successful city dwellers.

One of the most notable features of cities is that they are incredibly noisy – be it heavy traffic, building sites or aircraft flying overhead. For songbirds, however, all this noise is more than just a distraction. It can seriously affect chances of finding mates and reproducing and, for males, it is likely to affect how well they can defend their territories. Males sing during the breeding season to attract females and to signal to other males that their territory is occupied and should not be entered.

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