A sound future for birds starts before birth

Traffic noise can impact birds before they’ve even hatched

Traffic noise can affect birds even before they’re hatched, researchers found. In a study published in Science, researchers found that even moderate levels of traffic noise impacted the birds long-term development and fitness.

In an experiment, the authors exposed wild zebra finches to recordings of moderate traffic noise, as well as zebra finch songs and silence. The birds exposed to traffic noise experienced impaired nesting growth, shorter telomere length and reduced fitness as adults.

“The findings suggest that the acoustic environment of breeding birds in cities and along highways should be better managed,” wrote Hans Slabbekoorn, a professor at Leiden University, in the Netherlands, in a related Perspective. It could even have implications for humans, he wrote. “The acoustic comfort in hospital environments for pregnant mothers and babies warrants special attention.”

Read the study in Science.

Header Image: Traffic noise affects zebra finches even before they’re hatched. Credit: Jim Bendon