A test of songbirds’ problem-solving skills revealed how traffic noise impairs the animals’ abilities.
Scientists set zebra finches a “battery of foraging tasks” in the presence or absence of the noise.
They found the sound of passing cars diminished the birds’ ability to find food. The results, published in the journal Proceedings B, suggest that noise pollution has “previously unconsidered consequences for wildlife.”
Professor Christopher Templeton from Pacific University in the US, led the study, which he carried out in a behavioural lab with zebra finches. The researchers set the birds the tasks both in a quiet setting and while a recording of road traffic was played.
Templeton explained, “Just hearing a car drive by is enough to really affect their performance.”
The tasks were designed to mimic problem-solving and foraging in the wild. One involved retrieving food from beneath leaf-like “lids” that the birds had to flip over to reveal the reward.