Photo credit: Sid Mosdell licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, and Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition

The COVID pandemic has given people an opportunity to reflect on how the noises of urban life impact on the wildlife population of cities. At one time, according to Peter Fisher, Independent Australia, before cities were inundated with sounds from power tools, road traffic, waste collecting vehicles, and auto beeps, residents in Melbourne, Australia were able to awaken each morning and enjoy the “enchanting ‘ting ting’ of the bell bird.” Not only were these beautiful bird sounds enjoyable to the human ear but birds use their calls to maintain territories and attract mates. Yes, bird calls are important to the successful breeding of birds. Yet, how concerned have urban dwellers been in protecting the birds that have chosen to settle in urban environments?

The answer provided by Fisher is that local urban noise policy is set up to protect the health and well-being of humans, not wildlife. He notes correctly that noise can impact adversely on our mental and physical health including poorer reading comprehension and attention in children, and stresses that loud noise can lead to hearing loss. Then what about some noise ordinances for protecting birds? With respect to birds, researchers at Melbourne University have come up with some suggestions as to how they can be protected from urban noises. These include keeping speed and volume of road traffic low especially during the time when birds are most vulnerable to traffic noise. In time, according to Fisher, electric vehicles will make the roads quieter. I have to add that these suggestions are most certainly beneficial to urban dwellers as well.

Fisher ends his piece by reminding us that during the pandemic many people spent time in parks and green spaces and these experiences allowed us to “delight in a civilisation that’s all around us.” Will these experiences bring about actions that will lower the din in our environment for both the birds and city dwellers? Fisher hopes so, as do I.