Did you know that in recent years the songs of the birds have been dying out?

In a study published in Nature Communications, an international team of researchers led by the University of East Anglia (UEA), suggests that the sounds of spring are changing and that dawn songs in North America and Europe are becoming quieter and less assorted.

To reconstruct the soundscapes of more than 200,000 locations over the past 25 years, researchers have developed a new technique that combines bird-tracking data from citizen science with recordings of individual species in the wild.

To reconstruct historical soundscapes, annual bird count data from the North American Breeding Bird Survey and Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme sites were combined with recordings of more than 1,000 species from Xeno Canto, a database online song and bird calls.

The acoustic characteristics of these soundscapes were then quantified using four indices designed to measure the distribution of acoustic energy across frequencies and time.

These indices are based on song complexity and variety of contributing species, but quantify the diversity and intensity of each soundscape as a whole. According to the study’s lead author, Simon Butler of UEA’s School of Biological Sciences:

Birdsong plays an important role in defining the quality of experiences in nature, but widespread declines in bird populations and shifts in species distribution in response to climate change mean that acoustic properties of natural soundscapes are probably changing. However, historical sound records do not exist for most places, so we needed to develop a new approach to examine this.

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