Bluebirds Are Stressing Out

A study done in northern New Mexico within close proximity of a natural gas compressor shows that bluebirds in the area are suffering from stress from the noise. The study located 240 nesting sites around the area of the natural gas treatment center and took various blood samples from three different breeds of birds that alluded to the physiological symptoms.

Along with these samples, scientists also closely monitored the nests of the birds close to the loud compressor to examine mood. According to the scientists, it is harder for the birds to hear predators — or anything else for that matter — over the noise of the compressor. The birds’ health has suffered because they were being forced to always be alert due to the lack of the sense of sound. Once eggs are laid the birds do not want to leave the nest so they stay to take care of the chicks. Yet, the chicks also seemed to be suffering from the conditions because they were lacking feathers and their bodies were malnourished.

“Noise is causing birds to be in a situation where they’re chronically stressed … and that has really huge consequences for birds and their offspring,” said Rob Guralnick, associate curator of biodiversity informatics at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Guralnick and his associates say there is a correlation between the low survival rates, physiological symptoms and the chronic exposure to noise pollution, but to say that the birds’ mental health is suffering from the noise is a stretch. He also says that this is the first substantial link between noise pollution and a population of wild animals and that it might open up conversations about the noise we produce on this planet.

“Habitat degradation is always conceived of as clear-cutting, or, you know, changing the environment in a physical way. But this is an acoustic degradation of the environment,” Guralnick said. “We think that it is a real conservation concern.”

Professor Britt Heidinger of the biological sciences department studies stress levels in birds. She says that birds can be exposed to levels of noise that are not considered excessive and it can still affect the growth of the animals.

“Noise pollution is a big problem and that it is a problem that is increasing,” Heidinger said. “Lots of bird populations are exposed to this type of stress.”

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