A study found hearing traffic noise reduced zebra finches ability to acquire new motor skills thus busy roads affect the behaviour of birds.

Noisy, busy roads may be affecting the behaviour of birds, researchers have found.

A study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, found hearing traffic noise reduced zebra finches ability to acquire new motor skills, remember object locations, control impulses and learn by observing other individuals.

Associate Professor Christopher Templeton told i: “While our expectation was that noise would reduce cognitive performance, I was a bit surprised by the extent of the effect we observed. The degree to which simply hearing cars drive by impacted cognitive performance was really striking.”

Foraging tasks

Scientists at the Pacific University in the United States examined the effect of playing road traffic noise on zebra finches faced with a number of foraging tasks and compared it with birds which were not exposed to the traffic noise.

“In some cases, we observed that it took animals more than twice as long to learn new skills when they heard road traffic played at natural sounds levels,” said Professor Templeton, “For example, learning to remember the location of a hidden food reward took control birds about nine trials, but those exposed to traffic noise took on average 18 trials to learn the same task.”

Researchers found similar patterns in the way noise affected the birds’ abilities to control impulses, learn to differentiate between different colours and learn from other birds’ behaviour.

Traffic on The Highway in east London in what is usually the rush hour the day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson put the UK in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Traffic noise pollution was found to have a negative impact on birds’ cognitive behaviour

‘Twice as long to learn new skills’

The only behaviour the noise did not appear to disrupt was the birds’ ability to associate colour with a food reward.

Study authors believe the results suggest noise pollution may have previously unconsidered consequences for animals.

“Together, this disruption from noise pollution would likely have a pretty significant effect on the ability to animals learn about the world around them,” said Professor Templeton.

Originally published at i News