Avian Response to Road Construction Noise with Emphasis on the Endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler
Noise pollution can mask or distort bird songs, which inhibits mating success, predator detection, and parental response to begging calls. Road noise can cause lowered density and reproductive success in songbirds. I examined the impact of construction noise on reproductive success and territory selection of golden-cheeked warblers (Dendroica chrysoparia) at 3 sites: adjacent to road construction, adjacent to road-noise only, and a control with no noise or construction activity. I also examined birds' responses to experimental playback of construction noise to determine if warblers alter behavior in the presence of introduced road construction noise, if they have habituated to construction noise, and whether habituation is hindering their reproductive success. I used the Vickery reproductive index to evaluate productivity and automatic recording units to assess the levels of ambient noise in each site. From 2007-2009, productivity was stable in the road-noise only site and showed more annual variation in the construction and control sites; productivity was nearly identical in the latter 2 sites in 2008 and 2009. There was no significant difference in productive territory locations based on distance from road. Ambient noise was similar in the construction and roadnoise only sites but significantly different from the control. To examine habituation and territory placement, I (1) used construction noise playback to individual birds and evaluated occurrence of behavioral response as a function of distance from the roadway, and (2) established broadcast stations that simulate construction noise to determine impacts on territory selection. Of 88 surveys, 6 birds responded to construction noise playback. I conducted 18 control surveys and observed 1 behavioral response. All birds that responded were located greater than or equal to 140 m from the road. I established 3 broadcast stations per season in 2008 and 2009. In each year I placed broadcast units on the edges of randomly chosen territories identified during the previous field season. There was not a significant difference in mean territory shifts for broadcast and non-broadcast unit territories, and territory shifts did not show patterns in directionality or in reproductive success. Results suggest that construction noise does not appear to affect behavior or reproductive success of golden-cheeked warblers.