by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

The Audubon Society is probably the world’s leading birding and bird conservation organization, and its widely read magazine is a leading source of information about birds. This article by Daisy Yuhas in the Spring 2021 issue of Audubon Magazine discusses how the quiet of pandemic lockdowns over the last year impacted birdsong.

Many urban dwellers thought birds were singing more loudly because they could hear the birds sing, but research showed that the birds were actually singing more softly. They didn’t have to sing loudly so their songs could be heard over the usual urban din.

The birds were also singing differently. As Yuhas wrote:

The sparrows’ songs were 37 percent softer—much more than anticipated. It’s possible that the birds wanted to avoid standing out to predators. But the songs also featured new characteristics, including frequency changes, that experiments suggested could make birds more attractive to mates and better at defending territories.

Noise pollution affects all living things–insects, birds, small mammals, and humans. We hope that urban planners, elected officials, and noise regulators have learned how important quieter cities are, and will take steps to maintain quiet as the pandemic wanes and normal life returns.