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Know the West

Latest: Long-term noise pollution gives birds PTSD

New research links natural gas compressors with physical impacts on birds.


A gray flycatcher, a type of bird that is affected by industrial sound pollution.
Bettina Arrigoni/CC Wikimedia

In 2009, bird researcher Clint Francis found that natural gas well pads and compressors in Rattlesnake Canyon Wildlife Area in northern New Mexico were affecting the way birds nested. Thirty-two species chose to nest away from the constant hum of compressors, though 21 others nested near the noise. Some, like house finches, apparently used it as a cover to keep away predators that could not withstand the sounds. "Noise alone changes avian communities," Francis said. "That's definitive." (“Sound Science,HCN, 8/18/10)


Now, new noise-pollution research in Rattlesnake Canyon has found that, as researcher Rob Guralnick told the Washington Post, “acoustic degradation of the environment” has a clear physical impact on birds. The study, published in January, is the first to link noise pollution with stress hormone levels and survival rates for birds. Stress physiologist Christopher Lowry said that a bluebird nesting near a well pad “showed the same physiological symptoms as a human suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.”