Noise and wildlife

Exciting research on the biological effects of noise on birds

by David M. Sykes, Vice Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Recently we wrote about real “angry birds”—-research on birds showing that exposure to noise makes them hostile. That called to my mind some very exciting research by Jesse Barber, PhD, at Boise State University that was highlighted at a Public Outreach Workshop in Denver, Colorado, several years ago and has the enthusiastic support of scientists at the National Park Service.

Dr. Barber’s innovative research design got a lot of attention. He has written extensively about the effects of traffic noise on birds and how noise is an invisible source of habitat degradation

Dr. Barber is one of the emerging heroes in research on the biological effects of noise. He recently gave a TEDx talk that provides an overview of his perspective. Watch for more exciting work from his lab in Idaho.

David Sykes chairs several professional organizations in acoustical science: QCI Healthcare Acoustics Project, ANSI Committee S12-WG44, the Rothschild Foundation Task Force on Acoustics, and the FGI Acoustics Committee. He is lead author of “Sound & Vibration 2.0” (Springer, 2012), a contributor to the NAE’s “Technology for a Quieter America” and the GSA’s “Sound Matters,” and co-founded the Laboratory for Advanced Research in Acoustics at Rensselaer Polytech. A graduate of UC-Berkeley with advanced degrees from Cornell, he is a frequent organizer of professional conferences in the U.S., Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Real angry birds

Photo credit: Thet Tun Aung from Pexels

Country File magazine reports on recent research by Manchester Metropolitan University with Manchester Airport that found birds living near airports “are exposed to extreme noise levels from jet engines” which interferes with communication during breeding season. Interestingly, not only is communication affected, but the researchers found that common chiffchaffs living near loud aircraft were five times more likely to attack a speaker playing bird song than chiffchaffs who lived further away from airports. That is, the noise made the birds more aggressive.

We were not entirely surprised that noise would cause aggression in animals, as some studies show that noise causes or exacerbates aggression among humans.

Just another reason to lower the volume, everywhere.



It’s that time of the year: How to help your pooch on the 4th

Photo credit: Nancy Nobody from Pexels

Every year around the 4th of July we see a couple of articles on how to help your pet deal with the trauma they suffer during fireworks season. This year the advice is courtesy of the Carroll Count Times, where correspondent Iris Katz dispenses the usual nuggets of useful information:

Owners are advised to slowly inhale and exhale when fireworks and thunder start, play calming music, keep high value treats or toys on within reach to give the dog when thunder starts or a firework goes off and to keep tossing treats and toys. Food puzzle toys, like goody-stuffed Kongs or food dispensing toys, may be pleasant distractions for sound-sensitive dogs.

And every year we report on how fireworks drive dogs, in particular, mad. There’s even a medicine to treat doggy anxiety.

But one thing we in the U.S. don’t often hear is that loud fireworks are unnecessary. Rather, the sound is designed into fireworks displays, and quiet fireworks displays are possible. In fact, some thoughtful towns and cities in Europe and the Galapagos are starting to require quiet fireworks displays to protect pets and wildlife.

Isn’t it time we start doing the same here?

Why noise pollution is more dangerous than we think

Photo credit: Shawn Carpenter licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

The May 13, 2019 issue of The New Yorker magazine has a wonderful article about noise by staff writer David Owen. Complementing the article is this 8-minute YouTube video in which Mr. Owen talks about what he learned writing the article:

It’s well worth spending the time to watch.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

Music festival noise stresses out research fish

Photo credit: Kathy licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This report in the Miami Herald discusses how noise from the Ultra Music Festival “stressed out” fish kept at the University of Miami for research purposes. Toadfish, a common species in Miami’s Biscayne Bay, were more stressed than if they had heard the clicking sounds made by dolphins, which are a major predator for toadfish.

“So what we’re talking about here and what our data show presently is that Ultra was causing a short-term acute stress on our fish,” said Danielle McDonald, a University of Miami associate professor. “We don’t know and we cannot conclude whether this stress would have persisted over time,” she added.

I’m pretty sure the stress would have persisted.  Animals evolved in quiet, with sound detection being an important method of finding food for predator species, or avoiding being eaten for prey species.

In humans, noise exposure causes involuntary physiological stress responses, including increases in heart rate, blood pressure, stress hormone levels, and vascular inflammation

The one question I haven’t seen answered is whether voluntary noise exposure causes the same physiological stress responses as involuntary noise exposure. The fish obviously didn’t want to attend the rock concert, but the lab facility in which they lived was close enough to the music festival that they had to hear the music. Did the same changes occur in those who paid their hard-earned money to attend the festival?

If anyone has seen a research study answering this question, please let us know.

Thanks to Sherilyn Adler, PhD, at the Ear Peace Foundation in Miami, Florida for bring this article to our attention.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

NYC observes International Noise Awareness Day

Photo by Nicholas Santasier from Pexels

by Jeanine Botta, MPH, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition

In 1996, the League for the Hard of Hearing, now the Center for Hearing and Communication, established the first Noise Awareness Day in New York City. Eventually Noise Awareness Day became International Noise Awareness Day, a day to raise global awareness about the effects of environmental noise on human health and well-being. Today that concern extends to the harms of human generated noise on wildlife.

This year, the 24th INAD will be observed around the world on April 24th. Members and friends of The Quiet Coalition will participate in multiple events that day.  One of these is Noise, Quietness, and the Healthy City, a day-long workshop at New York University featuring speakers, discussions, hearing screenings, and a sound walk. Registration is required, and you can register for each event or the entire day.

On April 20th, two members of The Quiet Coalition will lead an interactive program in observance of INAD at the Clarendon Library in East Flatbush, Brooklyn to introduce mobile phone apps as a means of contributing to “citizen science” – a way to empower people to address community noise, and to identify and preserve quiet places. Click here for to download the flyer.

And also on April 24th, volunteers from the Acoustical Society of America will hold a Science of Sound educational program at the Bedford Library in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Registration is not required, but is recommended. Click here for more information about this program.

Learn more about INAD events worldwide at the Center for Hearing and Communication and the Acoustical Society of America websites. More comprehensive historical information about INAD can be found in this Acoustics Today article.

Jeanine Botta serves on the Board of Directors of the Right to Quiet Society for Soundscape Awareness and Protection. She also serves on the International Noise Awareness Day committee of the Technical Committee on Noise within the Acoustical Society of America. Jeanine has worked as a patient educator since 2008, and has a background in public health research administration. She also maintains the Green Car Integrity blog, a meditation on cars, tech, and noise. 


Cicada season is coming, get out your earplugs!

Photo credit: This image by the Agriculatural Research Service of the U.S. Deapartment of Agriculture is in the public domain.

Patrick Cloonan, The Indiana Gazette, writes that warmer weather brings out noisy cicadas. The cicadas in question are magicicada septemdecim, or 17-year cicadas.  And yes, they are noisy, says Cloonan, who notes that cicadas think the sound made by power tools are other cicadas.  As a result, the cicadas may land on humans, who will, no doubt, freak out even though cicadas are harmless….and tasty, Cloonan adds.  Yes, animals and people eat cicadas.

So next time you hear the loud chirping of a tree full of cicadas, you might want to put a pot on.  Shouldn’t be hard to find them as they call you to dinner.




Ford designs noise-proof kennels for noise-hating dogs

Photo credit: Ford Europe

Ford has designed a noise-cancelling kennel aimed at easing the anxiety and fear dogs experience during fireworks displays. It’s attractive and no doubt achieves its goal, but it’s also an expensive piece of kit that will be out of reach for most dog owners.

So kudos to Ford for looking out for man’s best friend, but why don’t we protect all dogs by demanding quiet fireworks instead?

Suspicion confirmed: drones are “a noisy nuisance”

Photo credit: Pok Rie

We wrote back in January about a drone trial by Wing, a subsidiary of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, in rural Australia wasn’t going quite the way Wing might have hoped. Long and short, the drones’ noise was so irritating that dog owners tried to avoid areas where they passed, people stopped using their yards, and the noise was triggering PTSD for some military veterans. Ouch!

Well, in response to the drone trial and the complaints it generated, an inquiry was formed.  And Wing can’t be happy with the submissions, which conclude that:

Household delivery drones are an invasive, under-regulated technology whose potential benefits to the ACT would not outweigh the disturbance to the local community and environment.

According to one of the 39 submissions, “the service had created angst in the community, exposed a lack of regulation of the evolving technology and caused disturbances to residents and local wildlife.” Additional submissions noted the loss of wildlife and birds in the area during the trial, while others raised concerns about “an invasion of privacy,” the “commercialisation of airspace” and “limited public information on the approval and regulation of the Google-backed company’s trial.”

A couple of positive submissions were made, including one which suggested drone delivery was an “environmentally friendly option,” and another from Wing’s consultant, AlphaBeta, which asserted that “delivery drones could have wide-reaching benefits for local businesses, consumers and the environment.”

But in the end, the majority of people responding to the inquiry expressed a negative view of the trial and “strong opposition to the service’s expansion.”

One thing we rarely see addressed in these drone delivery stories is this: what compelling need does drone delivery serve? All we see are fatter coffers for the Googles and Amazons of the world at the expense of consumers addicted to impulse buying.