Anthropogenic noise, a consequence of expanding infrastructure and industry in ecosystems, is a serious and ubiquitous threat, which can significantly modify the behaviour and certain population parameters in animals. Birds are particularly vulnerable in this respect, given that they communicate mostly vocally in dense habitats. In the winter time traffic noise can modify distribution of birds by masking of their alarm and contact calls. Additionally seasonal variation in avian auditory can modified birds responses to traffic noise during winter. The present paper reports the results of an investigation into the influence of a busy road (annual average 6673 motor vehicles per day) and traffic noise on woodland birds in winter. To our knowledge this study is the first to assess the effect of road noise on woodland birds during winter. We counted birds using the point—count method at 36 survey stations located in the forest at various distances from the road. At each such station we assessed selected habitat parameters, the distance from the road and the noise intensity level. We recorded a total of 454 birds belonging to 19 species. The mean noise intensity during the counts was 74.9 ± 2.6 dB at the stations situated 60 m from the road, 49.3 ± 2.5 dB at the stations 310 m from the road and 41.2 ± 2.9 dB at the stations 560 m from the road. The abundance and species richness of wintering birds did not depend on distance from the busy road or traffic noise in December, but in next months (January and February) the number of species and bird abundance were lower near the road. There were also differences in the abundance of a particular ecological bird assemblages distinguished according to food preference or social behaviour in relation to distance from the road. The proportion of granivorous birds decreased from December to February and with increasing noise level. The proportion of birds belonging to flocking species was related primarily to survey month and increased from December to February. This case study indicates that, in contrast to the results obtained during the breeding season and the autumn migration in the same study plot, road and traffic noise has no effect on the number of birds in the vicinity of a road during December. However in the next months, in January and February bird abundance and number of species was lower near the road, similar as during breeding and autumn migration periods.
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Vol. 50 • No. 2