A sombre finale: Birdsong is dying away in Europe and North America
Dec 03, 2021 1 min, 12 secs

An international team of researchers led by the University of East Anglia (UEA) developed a new technique, combining world-leading citizen science bird monitoring data with recordings of individual species in the wild, to reconstruct the soundscapes of more than 200,000 sites over the last 25 years.

The team unveiled a “widespread decline in the acoustic diversity and intensity of natural soundscapes”.

Lead author Dr Simon Butler, from UEA’s School of Biological Sciences, explained: “We found a widespread decline in the acoustic diversity and intensity of natural soundscapes, driven by changes in the composition of bird communities.

“Given that people predominantly hear, rather than see, birds, reductions in the quality of natural soundscapes are likely to be the mechanism through which the impact of ongoing population declines is most keenly felt by the general public,” he added.

“Bird song plays an important role in defining the quality of nature experiences but widespread declines in bird populations, and shifts in species’ distributions in response to climate change, mean that the acoustic properties of natural soundscapes are likely to be changing.”.

Annual bird count data from North American Breeding Bird Survey and Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme sites were combined with recordings for over 1000 species from Xeno Canto, an online database of bird calls and songs, to reconstruct historical soundscapes.

The acoustic characteristics of these soundscapes were then quantified using four indices designed to measure the distribution of acoustic energy across frequencies and time.

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