Yellow Warbler

Noise Pollution, Bird’s Bane

Every day we wake up and dreadfully get out of bed from the sound of our alarm clock. From the moment we start our day, noise has a profound impact and presence in our lives. While our alarm clocks are not harmful to our personal health and are of our own invention and intent, much of human-made noise pollution inadvertently has a negative effect on the animals around us. With the mounting human-induced external pressures propagated upon birds, from pesticide use to urbanization destroying habitats, noise pollution is oftentimes overlooked.

At its very core, noise and the lack thereof is instrumental to the survival of birds. The ability to hear and discern the types of noises in their natural habitat is an innate surveillance system that can be the difference between life and death. Constant human-produced noise pollution can essentially become an acoustic blanket, muffling the audio cues birds rely on to detect predators, competitors, and their own species. By masking the sounds of predators, human-made noise pollution impedes upon their ability to detect noise from their predators and flee danger, thereby causing birds to become easily susceptible to death. Along with these fatal threats, noise also blocks out a vital instrument of communication between species of birds. Males’ songs are drowned out by the persisting noise, reducing the number of female birds than can hear him and potentially mate with him. Without such communication, finding others to mate becomes more difficult and thus consequentially may hinder the reproductive success of the species. In a study conducted by Erin Bayne, a researcher from the University of Alberta, they found that such human-induced noise pollution reduces pairing amongst birds by about 15 percent, a starking degree of disruption that can lead to the precipitous decline of bird populations throughout the world.

At a time when humans have caused irreparable harm to nature throughout centuries of pollution, it is evermore more imperative that we address these issues immediately and sufficiently. It is within our capability to limit the noise pollution that we have caused and to in effect preserve the vital ecosystems and biodiversity on Earth that we so heavily depend on. If we disregard the need to reduce noise pollution and in effect choose the route of inaction, we are essentially signing off to the death of countless populations of bird species, a cost that we cannot afford to take.

Photo of Yellow Warbler by Marilu Lopez Fretts