Retweet it, only louder | Bleader

Retweet it, only louder


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A sparrow
  • John A. Anderson/Shutterstock
  • A sparrow
For the Bleader's Silence vs. Noise theme last week, I wrote about the minor phenomenon of late-night/early-morning bird chirping—a result of the same urban light pollution that helps guide home the drunks falling out of 4 AM bars the city wide. Of course, the nocturnal glow of street lamps isn't the only distraction to a songbird's mating and defense routines.

According to a recent study conducted in the Presidio district of San Francisco, sparrows have been forced over 35-some-odd years to raise their voices in order to compete with the city's escalating clamor. Researchers David Luther of George Mason and Elizabeth Derryberry of Louisiana State studied the reaction songbirds had to calls recorded in the park in 1969 and in 2005. Guess what happened?

"The birds responded more strongly to the modern songs than the 60s classics (as a measure of some ornithological metrics examining the number of songs, flybys and 'wing waves')," Emily Badger of the Atlantic Cities writes. "The two eras have produced something like different sparrow dialects."

So as the noise on and around the Golden Gate Bridge has worsened—with dolts talking on their cell phones while driving surely contributing a slight percentage to the increase—the pitch of a male bird's call has ramped up in an attempt to both fend off predators and offer a loud enough, "Hey, girl!"

Probably not the most shocking results ever to a study, sure, but similar to the side effects of light pollution, the hum of urban white noise really just sounds like its going to end up disrupting my sleep.

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