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The study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), also found that western bluebirds -- which tend to gravitate toward noisy environments -- lay fewer eggs that hatch when they nest there.
"In what we consider to be the most integrated study of the effects of noise pollution on birds to date, we found that it can significantly impact both their stress hormones and their fitness," said lead author Nathan Kleist, who conducted the research while at CU Boulder and graduated with a PhD in evolutionary biology in May. "Surprisingly, we also found that the species we assumed to be most tolerant to noise had the most negative effects."
Authors - Researchers - California - Polytechnic - State
The authors, which include researchers from California Polytechnic State University and the Florida Museum of Natural History, say the findings add to a growing body of evidence suggesting noise pollution from human activity is harmful to wildlife.
They also shed light on how stress from chronic noise exposure may impact humans.
Study - Researchers - Species - Cavity - Nesting
For the study, the researchers followed three species of cavity nesting birds, including western and mountain bluebirds and ash-throated flycatchers, which breed near oil and gas operations on Bureau of Land Management property in New Mexico. Kleist and his team erected 240 nest boxes on 12 pairs of sites. For three breeding seasons, the team took blood samples from adult females and their offspring and assessed hatching success, nestling body size and feather length. Across all species and life stages, the birds nesting in areas with more noise had lower baseline levels of a key stress hormone called corticosterone.
"You might assume this means they are not stressed. But what we are learning from both human and rodent research is that with inescapable stressors, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in humans, stress hormones are often chronically low," said co-author...
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