Songs of the Badger Tallgrass Prairie, Part 4
by Laura Olah, executive director CSWAB
Documented rare species at Badger Army Ammunition Plant include the Eastern Whip-poor-will. Made famous in folk songs, poems, and literature for their endless chanting on summer nights, Whip-poor-wills are easy to hear but hard to see. Their brindled plumage blends perfectly with the gray-brown leaf litter of the open forests where they breed and roost. These birds are on the decline in parts of their range as open forests are converted to suburbs or agriculture.
Sound and Disturbance
There is significant scientific literature documenting the physical and ecological effects of off-road vehicle use, ranging from soil compaction to non-native plant dispersal. However, the most widespread impact on songbirds and other wildlife is disturbance. Disruption of breeding and nesting birds is a particularly well documented problem. Many species are sensitive to human disturbance with the potential disruption of courtship activities, over-exposure of eggs or young birds to weather, and premature fledging of juveniles. Repeated disturbance can eventually lead to nest abandonment and long-term bird community changes.
Acoustic interference from noise can hamper the detection of song by birds of the same species, making it more difficult for them to establish and maintain territories, attract mates, and/or maintain pair bonds. This, in turn, may reduce breeding success in noisy roadside habitats. When begging for food, nestlings may need to call louder to elicit the desired response from their parents, thereby increasing the energetic cost of obtaining food and potentially decreasing fitness.
High levels of traffic noise may also interfere with the detection of alarm calls such as those signaling the presence of predators, which may lead to higher rates of predation. In addition to road noise, scientific studies have documented a correlation between high urban noise levels and songbird diversity – the more noise, the fewer the number of bird species.
Activities that create an urbanized environment (clean pavement, mowed grass, maintained buildings, and ornamental landscaping) are predicted to produce a bird community dominated by a few non-native and common native bird species, WDNR biologists caution.
All of these considerations make clear that high-impact use and sound disturbance will be detrimental to the songbirds of Badger.
To hear the song of the Eastern Whip-poor-will, go to:
NEXT WEEK: Wisconsin ranks second nationally in the proportion of citizens considered birders, with fully one-third of residents 16 and older reporting they travel to watch birds, or actively watch and identify birds around home, according to a new U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service report. PLUS, how you can help save the songbirds of Badger.
Help get the word out – LIKE us on Facebook!