Ecology

Not in My Backyard

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Science  18 Sep 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5947, pp. 1475
DOI: 10.1126/science.325_1475c
CREDIT: DENIS RADOVANOVIC/ISTOCKPHOTO

It is generally thought that anthropogenic noise is a contributing factor to declining nesting success for urban birds, but it appears that in some locales noise can have indirect and positive effects on some bird species. In woodlands adjacent to natural gas wells situated in the state of New Mexico, Francis et al. found that noise decreased the extent to which western scrub jays (Aphelocoma californica) preyed upon the nests of other birds. The relative intolerance of this predator for noisy habitats may result from the acoustic masking of their vocalizations by the compressors used in gas extraction. Although there was a general decline in nesting success and a reduction in species richness in response to noise, the escape from predation appeared to benefit species such as black-chinned hummingbirds and house finches, whose higher-frequency vocalizations are less vulnerable to interference from the sounds of human activities.

Curr. Biol. 19, 1415 (2009).

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