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Urban noise has birds in a twitter

YOU could call it the city slickers' accent of the bird world.

 

Silvereye songbirds in Sydney and other Australian capitals not only sing higher and more slowly to be heard above the urban din. They also sing in a different ''dialect'' than their nearby country cousins, new research shows.

 

Dominique Potvin, of the University of Melbourne, and her colleagues studied the common little green birds in Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Hobart and Adelaide, and in rural areas outside each city.

 

They found city birds used different syllables, or words, in their songs to those of the country birds, and this pattern was similar even in capitals that were far apart.

 

''The dialect or accent in these cities is quite different than in rural areas,'' Ms Potvin said. ''And the birds in Melbourne seem to use a similar language to the birds in downtown Brisbane.''

 

It is not necessarily a problem that the city dwellers have culturally evolved and changed their tune in an apparent bid to prevent their communication being distorted by the low rumble of transport and people.

 

''At the moment it just seems like a very good, flexible coping mechanism that songbirds can use,'' she said.

 

But the research demonstrated how big an impact a noisy human-made environment could have on bird behaviour.

 

In future it could also become an issue if country and city birds were no longer able to understand each other.

 

''Maybe they will start to not mate with each other, or maybe they will not be as attractive to each other.''

 

Ms Potvin said the find could explain why some species disappeared when noisy urban sprawl reached their habitat. ''Perhaps if a bird is not quite as flexible, it is much more at risk of becoming extinct if you're going to build a giant roadway in the middle of its territory.''

 

It showed there was a need to consider the acoustic impact of developments on local wildlife.

 

The new study on city accents will be published soon.

Source: great Lakes advocate

 

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