Does city life impact birds?

It’s no surprise that city life impacts the ecosystem it replaces. Especially when it comes to birds, it’s easy to observe the effects of urbanization. From telephone wires for sitting on to bread crumbs for eating, city life seems to suit our avian friends. A team led by researcher Adriana Dorado-Correa of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, however, would assert that birds are not necessarily cut out for the urban jungle. Their most recent research focuses specifically on the effect of noise pollution on telomere loss. Telomeres are compound structures at the ends of chromosomes that help prevent damage to chromosomes. The loss of these structures could be detrimental to the formation of new cells and embryos.

In Dorado-Correa’s study, the team bred zebra finches and put them in different noise environments: one group was exposed to traffic noise during breeding, one group was exposed during growth, and a control group did not deal with any traffic noise. Though telomere length decreased with age in all cases, which was expected, the group exposed to noise during growth had shorter telomeres than did those with noise during breeding and those not exposed to noise. Therefore, Dr. Dorado-Correa and her team were able to conclude that traffic noise negatively affects birds the most during growth. These findings elucidate how traffic noise affects birds’ growth and give cause for better management of traffic noise.