14.11.2021 change 14.11.2021

Today’s birdsong less pleasant than previously, say scientists

Credit: Fotolia Credit: Fotolia

The soundscape of birdsong over the last 25 years is less pleasing to the ear than previously, a new study has shown.

According to research carried out in Europe and North America, whereas in the past we would be woken to the soothing sounds of nightingales, larks, blackbirds and sparrows, we are now more often likely to be woken up by the shrill cry of seagulls or magpie squawk. 

Researchers say that these changes do not necessarily result from the number of birds in the area falling, but rather from changes in the number of birds of different species.

And this, they add, could have a detrimental effect on our health and well-being. 

The study’s co-author Dr. Przemyslaw Chylarecki of Museum and Institute of Zoology PAS said: "Listening to bird voices is part of our contact with nature. How many species 'fly' through our heads when we listen to bird choruses... Unfortunately, our research shows that in recent decades, the quality of this experience has been decreasing. As a result, our contact with nature becomes poorer.”

The researchers analysed how the number of birds of individual species in different locations had changed by comparing archival observations with today's soundscape. 

They concluded that in many respects, the contemporary soundscapes were typically much less impressive than the earlier ones.

According to Dr. Chylarecki, it often happens that specialized species that need very specific conditions withdraw, and birds with smaller requirements that can handle different conditions take their place.

He said: “As a result, we observe the effect of homogenisation. Various locations become similar to each other, also in terms of bird voices that can be heard there.

“Our bird monitoring is like a thermometer. It only tells us that the patient is ill, but there is still a long way to identifying the exact disease.”

The research results were published in Nature Communications (https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-26488-1).

PAP - Science in Poland, Ludwika Tomala

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