Traffic noise decreases nestlings’ metabolic rates in an urban exploiter

Brischoux, François; Meillère, Alizée; Dupoue, Andreaz; Lourdais, Olivier; Angelier, Frédéric

27 December 2016

High levels of anthropogenic noise produced in urban areas are known to negatively affect wildlife. Although most research has been focused on the disturbances of communication systems, chronic noise exposure can also lead to physiological and behavioural changes that have strong consequences for fitness. For instance, behavioural changes mediated by anthropogenic noise (e.g. quality of parental care) may alter development and could influence nestling phenotype. We tested if nestling metabolism was influence by traffic noise in an urban exploiter, the House sparrow (Passer domesticus). We experimentally exposed breeding House sparrows from a rural area to a playback of traffic noise and we examined the impacts of this experimental procedure on metabolic rates and morphology of nestlings. We did not find an effect of traffic noise on the morphology of nestlings. Surprisingly, we found that disturbed nestlings had overall lower metabolic rates and mass-adjusted metabolic rates than undisturbed birds. Our results suggest a specific effect of noise exposure per se, rather than an indirect effect of anthropogenic noise through the quality of parental care. Both the proximate mechanisms and the ultimate consequences of such metabolic changes on nestlings remain unknown and deserve future experimental studies.