Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Science (BS)




John Swaddle

Committee Members

Matthias Leu

Brent Owens


Noise pollution is an increasingly prevalent anthropogenic stressor that has detrimental effects on wildlife. Songbirds, in particular, are sensitive to noise pollution as they are inherently vocal animals. We know that noise affects how birds communicate and breed, but we know far less about how noise might influence patterns of foraging, vigilance, and aggression. These behaviors are important to understand because they can impact acquisition of resources, avoidance of predators, mating, breeding, and consequently overall fitness of birds. This experiment aims to help us better understand how noise pollution, specifically traffic noise, affects foraging, vigilance, and within-species aggression in a model songbird system, the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata). We found that exposure to traffic noise increased individual vigilance and decreased aggressive interactions in captive zebra finches, while it did not affect number of sentinels present (i.e. birds perched on rim of feeder exhibiting vigilant behavior). Additionally, there was no displacement away from noise or reduction in amount of food eaten in noisy conditions. These findings suggest that traffic noise causes vigilance to increase due to heightened perceived threat and aggression to decrease due to increased sociality and familiarity in zebra finches.

On-Campus Access Only