Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Department of Biology


Dana L. Moseley

Heather P. Griscom

M. Rockwell Parker

T. Brandt Ryder


In urbanized habitats, animals are faced with novel selection pressures such as differences in community structure and increased urban noise. Urban noise pollution can negatively impact songbirds as low-frequency noise often masks portions of birds’ mating signal and reduces signal transmission. Previous research has demonstrated that songs of birds in more urban habitats have structural differences that enhance signal transmission when noise is present. These studies have focused on species that deliver short, stereotyped songs with limited repertoires. Gray catbirds (Dumetella carolinensis, family: Mimidae) sing long bouts containing imitated, improvised, and invented song elements, and therefore may have an increased ability to vary songs in response to noise. I hypothesize that urbanization impacts catbirds’ song structural parameters, such as entropy, duration, and frequency. I recorded male catbird songs at sites along an urban gradient in Virginia and the Washington, D.C. metro region and quantified the degree of urbanization at each site. Song features such as minimum, maximum, and peak frequency increased significantly as noise levels increased, demonstrating that catbirds in more urban areas sing higher frequency songs likely in response to anthropogenic noise. These structural differences limit the negative effects of noise masking for catbirds, even for their long song bouts, and suggest that vocal mimics are responding to anthropogenic noise. Future studies should investigate repertoire size and composition along an urban gradient and if these features correspond with community composition.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.