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Road Noise & Migratory Birds

September 7, 2015

Road noise negatively impacts migratory birds.



Chris McClure_phantom road speakers sm

A set of speakers that formed part of the “phantom road” experiment. (Chris McClure)

A faux road starves birds. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

(SFX: Loud road noise)

Imagine eating every meal with road noise blaring in your ears. That’s what some birds endure while making stopovers during their fall migration. The noise makes it hard for the birds to maintain fat stores for the long journey, according to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Boise State research ornithologist Heidi Ware:

HEIDI WARE (Boise State University Intermountain Bird Observatory):

We decided to test the effects of road noise by building what we called a “phantom road”, a set of 15 speakers blasting road noise in the middle of a forest.


Ware’s team found a significant decrease in the body condition of birds near the phantom road.


The cumulative effect over the course of many stopovers would be even worse.


Ware says road noise can also negatively impact human health. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.