The effects of urbanization on bird vocal performance

Researcher: Autumn Chang

Affiliation: UCLA

Summary: The effects of urbanization on wildlife have been a topic of interest for decades because human activity transforms several facets of the natural environment of wildlife. Because of noise pollution from human activity, birds are known to change their singing habits. Aside from the detrimental effects of urban-adjusted birdcalls decreasing breeding success, singing at higher amplitudes may also have  increased energy costs. The primary aim of this project is to highlight the effects of urbanization on bird calling in the Los Angeles area. I propose carrying out an experiment comparing the songs of the Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica) at the UCLA Stunt Ranch Santa Monica Mountains Reserve (representing a relatively rural environment) and at the UCLA Midred E. Mathias Botanical Gardens (representing a more urbanized environment). Western scrub jays are native and common to western coastal North America. They possess a distinct blue color and a harsh birdcall, making them easy to identify. Not much research has been done on the birdcalls of western scrub jays. All these factors combine to make this species ideal test subjects.