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Nestling European Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) adjust their begging calls in noise

Maheshi E. Dharmasiri, Colleen A. Barber & Andrew G. Horn (2022). Nestling European Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) adjust their begging calls in noise. Bioacoustics, Volume 31 (5): 594 -613



Anthropogenic noise, so common in cities, continues to increase with urbanisation. It adversely affects avian species that rely on acoustic forms of communication. The negative impacts are further exacerbated when parent-offspring communication is considered, especially in species where young are entirely dependent on the care of their parents. Our first objective was to study the effects that loud traffic noise had on nestling begging calls in European Starlings, Sturnus vulgaris, an urban-thriving species. For our second objective, we examined how this noise impacted parental provisioning and nestling condition. We found that the minimum frequency of the begging calls was higher in nestlings within experimental broods (exposed to traffic-noise playback) compared to that of nestlings in the control broods (exposed only to ambient noise). Also, nestlings in experimental broods continued to beg at a higher minimum frequency but with a narrowed bandwidth after the playback was stopped. Parental provisioning rates did not differ between control and experimental broods, nor did fledging success, although nestlings in the experimental group were in poorer condition. Our findings suggest that urban thrivers are affected by increasing traffic noise but have the phenotypic flexibility to adapt at a young age to maintain critical parent-offspring communication.


Traffic noise, begging, European Starlings, parent-offspring communication, minimum call frequency, bandwidth