A comparison of sound propagation and song frequency in temperate marsh and grassland habitats
Attenuation of pure tones was measured in marsh and grassland habitat. At surface level, in grassland, the ground effect strongly attenuated frequencies below 2.0 kHz (Fig. 2). The ground effect was reduced by increasing source-receiver elevation. In marsh habitat the ground effect did not occur, and low frequencies were optimal for sound propagation (Fig. 3). As predicted from sound propagation tests, analysis of recorded songs of seven grassland and six marsh species indicated that minimum and emphasized frequency were significantly lower in songs of marsh birds. Maximum frequency did not differ between habitats (Table 4). Buzzing songs of yellow-headed blackbirds were broadcast and re-recorded at 1 and 50 m from the speaker in marsh and grassland habitats. Low frequency components attenuated more rapidly than higher frequency components in grassland, and the reverse occurred in marsh. Results suggested that the ground effect restricts the use of low frequencies by grassland birds. This evidence is consistent with the ‘sound window’ hypothesis of Morton.