Do the calls of a bird, the noisy miner (Manorina melanocephala), need adjustment for efficient communication in Urban anthropogenic noise?

Hélène Lowry, Alan Lill, Bob B.M. Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Urban environments are characteristically noisy and this can pose a challenge for animals that communicate acoustically. Although evidence suggests that some birds can make acoustic adjustments that preclude masking of their signals in high-disturbance environments such as cities, studies to date have tended to focus on acoustic signals important in mate attraction (e.g., songs). Far less attention has been given to the impact of urban noise on other kinds of calls. To redress this, we compared a range of different vocalizations (encompassing alarm calls, begging calls and parent response calls) among urban and rural individuals of a successful Australian ‘urban adapter’, the Noisy miner, Manorina melanocephala. We found that urban miners had significantly higher minimum sound frequencies for calls with low base-frequencies (<2 kHz); however, calls with base-frequencies ‘naturally’ above the main frequency range of urban noise (>2 kHz) had the same minimum frequency in urban and rural birds. Dominant frequency and call duration did not differ between urban and rural individuals. Although urban Noisy miners exhibited differences from rural individuals in the minimum frequency of calls, this shift was not large enough to avoid masking from low-frequency, anthropogenic noise. Nevertheless, our findings suggest that the calls of Noisy miners may be naturally well suited to being heard in noisy urban environments by having (a) dominant frequencies higher than low-level, anthropogenic noise and (b) several important call-types with frequencies above the main frequency range associated with urban noise.

Original languageEnglish
Article number118
Number of pages10
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019


  • Acoustic signals
  • Anthropogenic noise
  • Call adjustments
  • Noisy miner
  • Urban adapter

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