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Rural, City Birds Do Not Speak The Same Language

June 4, 2009

Although the great tit bird is loud enough to be heard in noisy, city areas, for their country relations they might as well be speaking Greek.

Scientists at Aberystwyth University discovered that the male great tit warbled at a pitch high enough to be heard above the city’s noise.

However, the rural birds were perplexed by the city bird’s singing while city birds “didn’t understand the lower rural pitch.”

The male great tit chirps to guard his region and find a mate.

Research student Emily Mockford traveled to 20 towns and cities in the UK to record the bird’s singing.

The singing was played to rural male tits in the mating season when they are their most antagonistic, but there was a “slower and weaker” reaction than the ones they gave to the fellow countryside birds.

Project leader Dr. Rupert Marshall noted how they recorded the city bird song, saying that: “We just stood there and pointed a microphone at them (the great tits). We went for medium-sized areas which were close to rural locations so that’s why we avoided London.”

“We played the urban bird song on a speaker to rural males during the breeding season. Usually this would provoke a strong reaction – the tits get quite worked up about it and would normally attack the speaker. But there was a slower and weaker response from the rural males.”

“They were less aggressive and not quite sure what to make of it. It was like the city birds were speaking a different language. Likewise, we found city birds didn’t understand the lower rural pitch,” he added.

Research scientists stated that the urban great tit responded to man-made noise by increasing the pitch of its chirp, but in the low-key rural areas a few miles away the bird’s pitch was lower.

PhD student Ms Mockford noted that, “the next step is to find out what the females make of these different songs – will they want to mate with a guy who sings too high or too low?”

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