Johann Strauss II composed his famous waltz, “Tales from the Vienna Woods” in 1868. However, our “tale” for this week has little to do with waltzing or the Strauss family. But it does have to do with music…specifically bird song…and research from the city of Vienna and its nearby Vienna Woods.
As anyone who’s ever walked along a city street can tell you, cities are noisy places. And much of this noise comes from traffic. This creates a problem for urban birds, who sing to attract mates and to defend their territory. Your song doesn’t work if the other birds can’t hear you. So how can a bird’s song be heard above the sound of traffic?
Earlier researchers have found that birds use two strategies: timing and frequency. Some urban birds, like robins, “sing in the latter night when the traffic noise decreases after the evening rush (hour).” While “other bird species, including blackbirds, sing in urban environments at a higher pitch.” This makes their song “easier to detect (amidst) the lower-frequency traffic noise.”
But a group of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology took a closer look at pitch in their study of “urban blackbirds in the city of Vienna and country blackbirds in the nearby Vienna Woods.”
They found that while birds from Vienna did sing at a louder pitch than birds from the Vienna Woods, the reason was not that it was higher frequency than that of the traffic noise. They found that the “real reason for this behaviour is that songs at a higher pitch are also automatically louder.” For these urban blackbirds, the higher the pitch, the louder the sound.
According to Dr. Nemeth, “By actively selecting high-frequency sounds, the city birds can increase their capacity to sing loudly and in this way counteract the acoustic masking of their song by the ambient noise.”
So this spring, those city birds living in the Vienna will sing at a louder volume and a higher pitch than their country relatives. And city life provides other advantages for birds. City birds have become composers, too, as you can see in this “Bird on the Wires” video.
Free Birding App. For those of you who are looking for a good birding app for your Apple cellphone or iPad, the Cornell Lab of Ornitholgy is offering a free app. Click here for more information.
Upcoming Outdoor Events:
Saturday, March 15, 8-10 am. Friendly Flyers. Are there ways we can be more “friendly” to the birds around us? Learn about our region’s birds and how our behavior can sometimes affect theirs. Beginning birders are welcome. Binoculars optional. Meet at Towsley Canyon’s front parking lot. Click here for map and directions.
Trail Maintenance Schedule. Come join our volunteers as they help maintain our trails. Contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org for time and place.
Wednesday mornings, March 5, 12, 19, & 26.
Saturday mornings, March 15.
New trail maps available. If you’d like to explore a bit on your own, the City of Santa Clarita has a website with trail maps of our local open spaces.
There’s also a new website for bicycle riders.
Ask Dr. Norm: Do you have questions about the flora, fauna, animals, rocks, etc. in our Santa Clarita Valley? Here’s a place for you to ask your questions. Dr. Norman Herr, Ph.D., is a professor of science and computer education at California State University, Northridge.
Tell Us About Your Hike: Here’s a new website where you can post pictures, provide feedback and make suggestions about the City of Santa Clarita’s trails and open spaces.
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on “The SCV Outdoor Report”, brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
Or check out our Facebook page – L.A. Mountains
Source: Santa Clarita News