Birds are the easiest kinds of animals to observe in our yards. They’re numerous, colorful, active, and loud.
In fact, birds are louder than they used to be.
Sound is important to birds – they use their calls and songs to communicate and attract mates. They also listen for predators and for prey, to find food and avoid becoming someone else’s meal.
Studies show that suburban noise – including traffic and lawnmowers – is making it hard for birds to hear each other. Birds are coping with the challenges of a noisy environment by becoming louder.
They’re also changing their songs, often shifting to a higher pitch that can be heard over the lower-frequency sounds produced by engines. In some cases, the variety of birds’ songs is decreasing, as individual birds converge on a song that their audience can hear.
Other studies have found that noise makes it difficult for birds to find food, because they spend more time looking for predators and less time pursuing their own prey. Noise can also cause birds to give up on an area altogether, and travel somewhere else in search of quieter surroundings. While that kind of mobility is usually not a hardship for birds, during migration, needing to travel further before stopping to rest and feed can threaten a bird’s survival.
Noise isn’t so great for people either. By turning the volume down in our yards, we can create a more pleasant environment for our neighbors, human and non-human alike.