There are few things more peaceful than the beautiful melodic sound of early morning bird song.

A major new study has shown that dawn choruses in North America and Europe are becoming less diverse and quieter as a result of climate change.

Researchers said the intensity of bird song has reduced over the last 25 years as warming temperatures have shifted the distribution of species. 

Melodies: Dawn choruses across North America and Europe are now becoming quieter and less varied because of climate change. The zebra finch songbird is pictured)

Melodies: Dawn Choruses in North America, Europe and elsewhere are becoming more quiet and less varied due to climate change. This is the zebra finch songbird.


Blue tits are often seen in UK gardens

UK gardens often have blue titus.

  • House sparrow
  • Blue tit
  • Starling
  • Blackbird
  • Woodpigeon
  • Robin
  • Great tit
  • Goldfinch
  • Magpie
  • Long-tailed tit


The University of East Anglia (UEA), conducted a study to reconstruct soundscapes of more that 200,000 sites over the course of a generation.

It involved combining world-leading citizen bird monitoring data with recordings from individual species in the wild.

Simon Butler, UEA School of Biological Sciences, is the lead author. He said that there are many benefits to nature contact, including improved physical health and psychological well being, as well as increased participation in proenvironmental behaviour.

The quality of nature experiences is influenced by bird song. However, there has been a significant decline in bird populations and shifts in species distributions due to climate change. This means that natural soundscapes’ acoustic properties are likely to be changing. 

“However, historical sound records don’t exist for most locations so we had to develop a new approach.

The annual bird count data from North American Breeding Bird Survey sites and Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme site sites were combined with recordings of over 1,000 species from Xeno Canto, an internet database of bird calls and songs, in order to reconstruct historical soundscapes.

These soundscapes’ acoustic characteristics were then quantified using four indices that measure the distribution of acoustic energies across frequencies and times. 

These indices are driven primarily by song complexity and variety across contributor species, but they also quantify the diversity of each soundscape as an entire. 

Dr. Butler stated, “We found a widening decline in the quality and intensity of natural soundscapes, primarily driven by changes in the compositions of bird communities.”

Researchers at the University of East Anglia said the intensity of bird song has reduced over the last 25 years as warming temperatures have shifted the distribution of species (stock)

Researchers at the University of East Anglia said the intensity of bird song has reduced over the last 25 years as warming temperatures have shifted the distribution of species (stock)


Birds communicate with each other by using their voices.

Sharp tunes can be a powerful way to communicate with long distances, especially when you are small or live in dense habitats like rain forests.

Many bird species use specific calls for identification and communication with nearby threats.

Birdsong, a specialized type of call used by many species for mate-help, is a very common one.

Birdsong is almost exclusively a male activity. The singer can use it to show that he’s healthy, fit, and ready for breeding.

“These results suggest that the spring soundtrack is becoming quieter and more monotonous, and that one of the basic pathways through which humans interact with nature is in decline. This could have potentially wide-ranging implications for human well-being and health.

“Given that people hear more birds than they see, the public is likely to feel the most the effects of population declines through reductions in natural soundscapes.

Researchers claim it is difficult to predict how changes in bird communities will affect soundscape characteristics.

Dr Catriona Morrison is a post-doctoral researcher at UEA’s School of Biological Sciences. She said that she found that sites with greater declines either in total abundance or species richness also have greater declines of acoustic diversity, and intensity. 

“How soundscapes change depends on how they are constructed in the initial community and how species’ song and call characteristics complement each other.

“For example, the loss or complexity of the soundscape will be more affected by species like the nightingale or skylark than a raucous corvid species or gull species. 

“Critically, however, this will also depend upon how many were present on the site and what other species are present.”

Dr Morrison said, “Unfortunately, the world is facing an environmental crisis. We now know that the decreasing connection between humans and nature may be contributing to this crisis.”

“As we become less aware of our natural surroundings, so do we start to notice and care less about their degrading. 

“Studies like ours aim at raising awareness of these losses and demonstrating their potential impact on human health and well-being. 

The research was published in Nature Communications.