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Do Birds Avoid Railroads as Has Been Found for Roads?

Abstract

The construction of railway lines usually has a negative effect on the natural environment: habitats are destroyed, collisions with trains cause deaths, and the noise and vibrations associated with rail traffic disturb the lives of animals. Cases are known, however, where the opposite holds true: a railway line has a positive effect on the fauna in its vicinity. In this study, we attempted to define the influence of a busy railway line on a breeding community of woodland birds. Birds were counted using the point method at 45 observation points located at three different distances (30, 280, 530 m) from the tracks. At each point, we determined the habitat parameters and the intensity of noise. In total, 791 individual birds of 42 species were recorded on the study plot. Even though the noise level fell distinctly with increasing distance from the tracks, the abundance of birds and the number of species were the highest near the railway line. Moreover, insectivorous species displayed a clear preference for the vicinity of the line. The noise from the trains did not adversely affect the birds on the study plot. The environmental conditions created by the edge effect meant that the birds preferred the neighborhood of the tracks: the more diverse habitats near the tracks supplied attractive nesting and foraging niches for many species of birds. Trains passing at clear intervals acted as point sources of noise and did not elicit any negative reactions on the part of the birds; this stands in contrast to busy roads, where the almost continuous flow of traffic in practice constitutes a linear source of noise.

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Acknowledgments

We thank two anonymous referees for critically reviewing previous version of the manuscript. This research was supported by the Institute of Biology and Biochemistry UMCS. Our special thanks go to Maciej Hałucha and Janusz Bohatkiewicz from EKKOM Ltd. for preparing the acoustic map of the study area.

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Correspondence to Jarosław Wiącek.

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Wiącek, J., Polak, M., Filipiuk, M. et al. Do Birds Avoid Railroads as Has Been Found for Roads?. Environmental Management 56, 643–652 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-015-0528-7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-015-0528-7

Keywords

  • Railway
  • Noise
  • Edge effect
  • Woodland birds