A researcher at the University of Southampton has found that robins in urban environments are affected by noise and light pollution.
The study by Frances Mullany used a fake robins to measure how the quality of robin territory was affected by its proximity to a lit path and a road.
Robins hold territories all year round, individually over winter, and as a pair during the breeding season. If you’ve ever strayed too close to a male robin’s territory, you may have encountered their aggression as these feisty little characters defend their patch. Male birds in particular are aggressive and very vocal in defending good quality territory.
By setting up fake birds in different robin territories throughout an urban park, Frances was able to record how aggressively each of the birds in the park that responded, sang and displayed in response.
The study found that the robins that lived closer to lit paths and noisy roads displayed less aggressively than those who were further away.
Although urban pollution didn’t stop robins from singing, it certainly had a marked effect on the birds’ behaviour. The results of this study lay the foundation for further research into why these territories are less well defended, and has interesting implications for urban planning and design in the future.