Birds in San Francisco Sang Differently During the Pandemic Shutdown

During the pandemic shutdown in March, residents in Bay Area, San Francisco reported that the birds now sang…
Birds in San Francisco

During the pandemic shutdown in March, residents in Bay Area, San Francisco reported that the birds now sang differently than they always did. According to the residents, in the silence of the pandemic shutdown, these birds produce songs that travel a long distance.

What seemed to be strange has been confirmed by Elizabeth Derryberry, a professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and Jennifer Phillips, a researcher at Cal Poly. The two researchers evaluated how songbirds reacted to a quieter environment.

They recorded the songs and soundscapes of the birds in San Francisco before and during the pandemic shutdown and then compared them. The researchers discovered that the birds responded to a quieter environment by singing softer songs that could go through a larger distance. The songs also became sweeter in terms of vocal, which means the birds sang a range of notes in their song, during the shutdown.

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When I saw photos of an empty Golden Gate Bridge, it struck me just how little traffic there was, I realized we were in a unique position to look at how changes in human behavior might affect wildlife and what the noise reduction might mean for the songbird we study.

Derryberry, lead author of the study.

Jennifer Phillips carefully studied the song of the white-crowned sparrow in the Bay Area. She then recorded noise and song samples from rural and urban areas around San Francisco and Richmond, California. Phillips measured how loud the birds were singing and how much distance between where she was and where the birds were.

When the results were compared, the team realized that a lower noise level in the city was caused by less traffic. The reduction of vehicular traffic got rid of urban noise pollution during the pandemic shutdown.

Phillips maintained that before the shutdown, bird territories in San Francisco were three times more than human noise in rural western Marin County. She noted that during the shutdown, it was completely different as people could hear more effectively.

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