Download the full-sized PDF of The effect of anthropogenic noise on songbird vocal communicationDownload the full-sized PDF



Permanent link (DOI):


Export to: EndNote  |  Zotero  |  Mendeley


This file is in the following communities:

Graduate Studies and Research, Faculty of


This file is in the following collections:

Theses and Dissertations

The effect of anthropogenic noise on songbird vocal communication Open Access


Other title
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Proppe, Darren
Supervisor and department
St. Clair, Colleen Cassady (Biological Sciences)
Sturdy, Christopher (Psychology)
Examining committee member and department
Bayne, Erin (Biological Sciences)
Slabbekoorn, Hans (Biology)
Palmer, A. Richard (Biological Sciences)
Department of Biological Sciences

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Anthropogenic noise is increasingly widespread as human development continues. Noise can negatively affect humans and wildlife, but the most deleterious effects are incurred by species that rely on vocal communication for mating, territory defence, and other vital functions. Songbirds are particularly susceptible, often experiencing declines in richness and abundance in noise-affected areas. Yet, some species remain abundant in noisy environments. High frequency vocalizations, or the ability to shift to higher frequencies, is one adaptation that may allow birds to communicate above low frequency anthropogenic noise. However, the mechanisms underlying frequency shifting, and the relationship between vocal frequency and abundance, are still not fully understood. I examined whether black-capped chickadees produce songs at higher frequencies in noisy areas, and whether these differences could be due to altered vegetative structure rather than noise. I also examined whether chickadees could plastically change song frequencies as noise increased. Finally, I surveyed abundance and recorded vocalizations from several songbird species to evaluate whether plasticity in song frequency, or mean song frequency, could predict how abundance and urban prevalence would be affected by anthropogenic noise. I found that black-capped chickadees shifted to higher song frequencies in noise-affected areas, and that vegetative differences did not account for these changes. Further, chickadees at roadside locations plastically increased their song frequencies as noise levels increased. Vocal plasticity, however, was not related to abundance in my multi-species comparison. Instead, noise-related changes in abundance were predicted by a species minimum song frequency. Nevertheless, minimum song frequency did not necessarily predict whether a species would be widespread in urban areas. In addition to frequency parameters, urban species may avoid overlap with noise through spatial and temporal mechanisms, but those that lack any mechanisms to communicate within anthropogenic noise may experience declines. Thus, reducing anthropogenic noise may increase the quality of urban habitats for birds.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
Citation for previous publication

File Details

Date Uploaded
Date Modified
Audit Status
Audits have not yet been run on this file.
File format: pdf (Portable Document Format)
Mime type: application/pdf
File size: 789010
Last modified: 2015:10:12 17:24:33-06:00
Filename: Proppe_Darren_Fall 2010.pdf
Original checksum: f1f227e57ebf051fc0f1e62114853130
Well formed: true
Valid: true
File title: Microsoft Word - Proppe thesis final revision 1
File author: Owner
Page count: 169
Activity of users you follow
User Activity Date