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Estimating effects of highway noise on the avian auditory system


Our own common experience suggests that the adverse effects of noise on birds can be considered with regard to four potentially overlapping categories. First, noise might be annoying to birds. This may cause them to abandon a particular site that is otherwise ideal in terms of food availability, breeding opportunities, etc. Second, noise which lasts for very long periods of time can be stressful. Such noise levels can raise the level of stress hormones, interfere with sleep and other activities, etc. Thirdly, very intense noise (acoustic overexposure) can cause permanent injury to the auditory system. Finally, noise can interfere with acoustic communication by masking important sounds or sound components. The first two categories of investigation are probably best addressed by field experiments. The second two categories of effects are probably best addressed by laboratory experiments where precise control can be obtained. The results of some of these experiments are described in this paper.

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