Date of Award

5-2013

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Experimental Psychology

Major Professor

Todd M. Freeberg

Committee Members

Gordon M. Burghardt, Neil Greenberg, Michael A. Olson, David A. Buehler

Abstract

The presence of traffic noise and its potential effects on wildlife is a burgeoning topic of research within the fields of conservation behavior, animal behavior, ecology and wildlife management. Accumulated data from these efforts, mostly correlative and rarely-experimental, suggest that traffic noise induces a myriad of species-specific changes to population dynamics, breeding behavior and acoustic structure of avian song. However, the degree of generalizability of these findings is confounded by the limited variety of behaviors studied within a relatively small sample of species. This original research provides experimental evidence of the effects of simulated and real traffic noise on previously unstudied social and vocal behavior in tufted titmice (Baeolophus bicolor). First, titmice were exposed to simulated traffic noise for 8 hours per day to determine whether traffic noise caused changes in social and vocal behavior as had been suggested by previous research. This stimulus, background noise mimicking the duration of exposure, amplitude and frequency parameters of traffic noise, significantly affected several aspects of social behavior. Analyses on the vocal behavior of these subjects suggests that noise only affects call use of the most vocally-productive bird, who also happens to be the most dominant group member. A second study broadcasted recordings of traffic noise to titmice for 2.5 hours per day to test for the effects of the temporary rise in background noise levels resulting from 'rush hour' on the same social behavior found to be effected in study one. Results of Study 2 corroborated those of Study 1 and indicated that characteristics of traffic noise itself influence its effects. Among the first of its kind, this research demonstrates a direct link between traffic noise and survival-relevant social and vocal behavior.

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