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Data from: Experimental traffic noise attracts birds during the breeding season

Cite this dataset

Hennigar, Bronwen; Ethier, Jeffrey P.; Wilson, David R. (2019). Data from: Experimental traffic noise attracts birds during the breeding season [Dataset]. Dryad.


Understanding how anthropogenic disturbance affects animal behavior is challenging because observational studies often involve co-occurring disturbances (e.g., noise, lighting, and roadways), and laboratory experiments often lack ecological validity. During the 2016 and 2017 avian breeding seasons, we investigated the effects of anthropogenic noise and light on the singing and spatial behavior of wild birds by independently manipulating the presence of each type of disturbance at 89 sites in an otherwise undisturbed boreal forest in Labrador, Canada. Each treatment was surrounded by an 8-channel microphone array that recorded and localized avian vocalizations throughout the manipulation. We analyzed the effects of noise and light on the timing of the first vocalizations of each species at each array during the dawn chorus, and on the proximity of the vocalizing birds to the disturbance when those songs were produced. We analyzed all species combined, and then conducted separate analyses for the six most common species: Boreal Chickadee, Dark-eyed Junco, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Swainson’s Thrush, White-throated Sparrow, and Yellow-rumped Warbler. When all species were analyzed together, we found that traffic noise attracted vocalizing birds. There was some evidence that light repelled birds, but this evidence was inconsistent. In our species-specific analyses, Yellow-rumped Warbler sang earlier in response to noise; Swainson's Thrush was attracted to noise and the combination of noise and light, but repelled by light alone. Our study provides some of the first experimental evidence of the independent and combined effects of traffic noise and light on the vocal and spatial behavior of wild birds, and suggests that breeding birds may be attracted to noisy roads where they could be exposed to additional forms of disturbance.

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