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Birds fly over a city.

It’s well documented that birds face many human-caused challenges, such as habitat loss due to intensive farming and poisoning from pesticides. But noise pollution — from activities such as oil drilling, construction work, and everyday car traffic — has often been overlooked as a factor in the decline of avian species in recent decades.

New evidence published in Biology Letters indicates that noise pollution obstructs critical information that birds use to communicate with one another, which has an impact on mating rituals and competition for food and shelter.

Since birds use song to defend territory and attract mates, researchers used playbacks of robin song to stimulate responses from birds in both the presence and absence of human-made noise.

Song complexity is used as a signal of aggression and enables birds to assess their opponents; the research showed that this process was disrupted by the presence of additional human-created noise.

“The study is evidence that human-made noise pollution impacts animal habitats and directly influences their ability to communicate properly, which may have implications for survival and population numbers for birds,”says Gareth Arnott, PhD, senior lecturer and researcher from the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast.

Besides turning down the volume, there are other ways to help out our fine feathered friends. Here are 10 simple, everyday actions recommended by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to get you started, including keeping cats indoors, gardening with native plants, and brewing a bird-friendly cup of coffee.

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