Researchers from Southampton University compared how male robins in a city park defended their territories with those more affected by urban light and noise. The results were presented at the annual British Ecological Society meeting.

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“Robins are found in almost every city park,” said lead researcher Frances Mullany. “So they’re ideal for this type of study.”

Male robins are aggressive and very vocal in defending good-quality territory, and in advertising themselves to potential mates.

The scientists used a taxidermy robin and a recorded robin song to measure the birds’ responses in territories throughout the park and create a map showing a 'dominance hierarchy'.

The robins with territories closer to lit paths and noisy roads showed less aggression to the fake robin and song, meaning they are lower down in the dominance hierarchy. "Artificial night-time lighting and more daytime noise resulted in lower-quality robin territory," said Ms Mullany.

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“This new study reminded me of one on robins 10 years ago,” said Dr Rupert Marshall, who studies birdsong at Aberystwyth University. “Although artificial light was present in all territories, it was urban noise which predicted the timing of the song, leading them to sing at night to avoid the din.”

Authors

Megan ShersbyEditorial and digital co-ordinator, BBC Wildlife

Naturalist and writer

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