Skip to main content

Effects of anthropogenic noise on cognition, bill color, and growth in the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata)


There is growing concern that anthropogenic noise has various deleterious effects on wildlife in urban environments. In humans, it has been suggested that anthropogenic noise exposure during childhood can have long-term effects on cognitive processes in adulthood. Here we tested if urban noise impacts avian cognitive performance by testing adult zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) on several cognition tasks in the presence or absence of urban noise playback. We also tested if urban noise impacts growth and cognitive development by testing adult zebra finches on cognition tasks after exposing them to urban noise, pink noise, or no noise during their first 90 days of life. We found that urban noise exposure marginally reduced cognitive performance during tests of a novel motor skill but did not reduce performance during tests of color association learning or spatial memory tasks. We found that urban noise exposure during development marginally affected cognitive performance in adulthood on a color association task. While urban noise exposure during development did not affect adult body size, treated males and females developed less bright bill coloration and redder bills, respectively, than untreated birds. Our results suggest that urban noise exposure may affect morphological traits, such as bill color, that influence social interactions and mate choice. Future studies should examine how noise exposure affects other cognitive behaviors, such as social behavior, and how social behavior in turn might exacerbate or mitigate negative effects of noise.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5

Data Availability

The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are available in the Figshare repository,


Download references


We wish to thank Mylene Mariette and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments, which strengthened our manuscript. We thank Isabella Dixon, Carson Ennis, Elisset Proveda, Leena Al-Hraki, and Kristen Palmer for their assistance with running cognition trials.


The Florida Atlantic University Office of Undergraduate Research and Inquiry, FAU College of Science, and the FAU Department of Biological Sciences provided funding and logistical support.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Rindy C. Anderson.

Ethics declarations

Ethics approval

All animals were cared for in accordance with protocols approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee of Florida Atlantic University, permit no. A18-35.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary Information

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary file1 (DOCX 23 KB)

Rights and permissions

Springer Nature or its licensor (e.g. a society or other partner) holds exclusive rights to this article under a publishing agreement with the author(s) or other rightsholder(s); author self-archiving of the accepted manuscript version of this article is solely governed by the terms of such publishing agreement and applicable law.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Daria, C., Slevin, M.C. & Anderson, R.C. Effects of anthropogenic noise on cognition, bill color, and growth in the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata). acta ethol (2022).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • DOI:


  • Urban noise
  • Zebra finch
  • Cognition
  • Bill ornamentation