Effects of experimentally elevated traffic noise on nestling white-crowned sparrow stress physiology, immune function and life history

Ondi L. Crino, Erin E. Johnson, Jessica L. Blickley, Gail L. Patricelli, Creagh W. Breuner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations

Abstract

Roads have been associated with behavioral and physiological changes in wildlife. In birds, roads decrease reproductive success and biodiversity and increase physiological stress. Although the consequences of roads on individuals and communities have been well described, the mechanisms through which roads affect birds remain largely unexplored. Here, we examine one mechanism through which roads could affect birds: traffic noise. We exposed nestling mountain white-crowned sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys oriantha) to experimentally elevated traffic noise for 5?days during the nestling period. Following exposure to traffic noise we measured nestling stress physiology, immune function, body size, condition and survival. Based on prior studies, we expected the traffic noise treatment to result in elevated stress hormones (glucocorticoids), and declines in immune function, body size, condition and survival. Surprisingly, nestlings exposed to traffic noise had lower glucocorticoid levels and improved condition relative to control nests. These results indicate that traffic noise does affect physiology and development in white-crowned sparrows, but not at all as predicted. Therefore, when evaluating the mechanisms through which roads affect avian populations, other factors (e.g. edge effects, pollution and mechanical vibration) may be more important than traffic noise in explaining elevated nestling stress responses in this species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2055-2062
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Volume216
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2013

Keywords

  • Development
  • Nestling
  • Stress physiology
  • Traffic noise

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