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New study finds wildfires can cause some birds to change their tune

Wednesday, June 17th 2020, 2:37 pm - Wildfire displacement can have a big impact on some bird species, a new study finds.

Each year, wildfires cause widespread habitat destruction, displacing animals. For some, that causes a distinct change in their behaviour, according to a new study published by Oxford University Press.

Hermit Warblers sing a formulaic, region-specific song to attract a mate. For their study, researchers recorded formulaic songs from 1,588 males across 101 U.S. sites between 2009 and 2014. In doing so, they classified 35 warbler dialects and found that song diversity increased in areas with wildfire activity.

Five to ten years after researchers visited a site, the study authors found that song structure had steadily changed, and song diversity further increased in areas that experienced additional wildfires.

The study's authors argue the findings suggest wildfires disrupt the uniformity of song locality.

Hermit Warbler (Dendroica occidentalis) Photo of a male Hermit Warbler. Courtesy: Wikipedia.

"Our surveys suggest that song dialects arose in sub-populations specialized to different forest types," lead author Brett Furnas said in a statement.

"Over the longer term, fire caused some birds to flee and created a vacuum for other birds to fill. The net result is that some areas now have birds singing more than one dialect resulting in a complex diversity of songs throughout California."

Hermit Warblers are typically found in wooded areas, dining on the insects found in pine, Douglas-fir, spruce, and other conifers.

It can be found in the western U.S. during the summer and spends its winters in Mexico, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.

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