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Wind farm noise suppresses territorial defense behavior in a songbird

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Maria Zwart, Dr Jonathon DunnORCiD, Professor Philip McGowan, Professor Mark WhittinghamORCiD


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In birds, anthropogenic noise has been linked to reduced breeding densities and success, but the mechanisms by which this occurs are currently unclear. In this study, we investigated whether wind turbine noise, an increasingly common source of anthropogenic noise in remote and rural locations, affects territory defense in a songbird, the European robin (Erithacus rubecula). We showed that robins increase low-frequency song elements in response to territorial intrusion under quiet conditions but that this response did not occur in the presence of wind turbine noise. These results are particularly interesting in light of previous work implicating low- frequency song in aggression, perhaps as a signal of body size. Thus, anthropogenic noise may affect their ability to deter an intruder, leading to expenditure of extra time and energy, to increased risks of injury and, as a consequence, reduced breeding success. Our study contributes to understanding the impact of anthropogenic noise on birds by linking disruptive noise and territorial behavior, which may be a mechanism underlying the reduction in bird breeding densities and success that has been reported in noisy areas.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Zwart MC, Dunn JC, McGowan PJK, Whittingham MJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Behavioral Ecology

Year: 2016

Volume: 27

Issue: 1

Pages: 101-108

Print publication date: 01/01/2016

Online publication date: 12/08/2015

Acceptance date: 21/07/2015

ISSN (print): 1045-2249

ISSN (electronic): 1465-7279

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/beheco/arv128


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