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Natural and anthropogenic noise increase vigilance and decrease foraging behaviors in song sparrows

Cite this dataset

Sweet, Kate et al. (2021). Natural and anthropogenic noise increase vigilance and decrease foraging behaviors in song sparrows [Dataset]. Dryad.


Animals glean information about risk from their habitat. The acoustic environment is one such source of information, and is an important, yet understudied ecological axis. Although anthropogenic noise has become recently ubiquitous, risk mitigation behaviors have likely been shaped by natural noise over millennia. Listening animals have been shown to increase vigilance and decrease foraging in both natural and anthropogenic noise. However, direct comparisons could be informative to conservation and understanding evolutionary drivers of behavior in noise. Here, we used 27 song sparrows (Melospiza melodia) and 148 laboratory behavioral trials to assess foraging and vigilance behavior in both anthropogenic and natural noise sources. Using 5 acoustic environments (playbacks of roadway traffic, a white-water river, a white-water river shifted upwards in frequency, a river with the amplitude modulation of roadway traffic, and an ambient control), we attempt to parse out the acoustic characteristics that make a foraging habitat risky. We found that sparrows increased vigilance or decreased foraging in 4 of 6 behaviors when foraging in higher sound levels regardless of the noise source or variation in frequency and amplitude modulation. These responses may help explain previously-reported declines in abundance of song sparrows exposed to playback of intense river noise. Our results imply that natural soundscapes have likely shaped behavior long before anthropogenic noise, and that high sound levels negatively affect the foraging-vigilance trade-off in most intense acoustic environments. Given the ever-increasing footprint of noise pollution, these results imply potential negative consequences for bird populations.  


National Science Foundation, Award: DEB 1556177 to JRB

National Science Foundation, Award: 1556192 to CDF