We examined the extent to which acoustic noise in urban environments influences song characteristics and singing behaviour of Northern Cardinals Cardinalis cardinalis and American Robins Turdus migratorius. We predicted that, in response to loud noise, birds would improve signal transmission by (1) increasing singing rate and (2) adjusting song characteristics such as pitch and length. From May – July 2006, 42 cardinals and 53 robins were recorded in forests located within four acoustic environments in central Ohio: rural, residential, commercial, and highway. Following each recording, we measured ambient noise level and recorded information describing location, weather, habitat, and conspecific presence within 75 m. As predicted, frequency range was positively correlated with noise level for both species, but neither song length nor rate was related to noise level for either species. These data support the idea that anthropogenic noise influences avian singing behaviour and acts as a selective force in urban areas.
bird song, frequency, urban noise, Northern Cardinal, American Robin