Urbanization of Bird Song

ArtistFaith Kerehona
ScientistDominique Potvin
Scientist PositionPostdoctoral Fellow, Research School of Biology, ANU

Urbanization of Bird Song

I work on how urbanization, especially noise, affects native songbirds. This artwork shows one of my study species, the silvereye (Zosterops lateralis). What Faith and I were trying to convey through this piece are a few key points about the conservation of species – firstly, that it is not all “doom and gloom” – we as humans are opposing forces that can either negatively OR positively impact wildlife. While we are indeed destroying habit and making things difficult for birds in urban areas, there are things we are able to do to care for biodiversity in such areas. The second idea is that these impacts we as humans are having on birds are not just surface-level, but are connected to the birds. I have found, in my research, that noise can impact a bird’s brain, not just their behaviour. It can impact upon a bird’s physiology, and possibly even their genetics. Therefore the impacts that urbanization (and the restoration and conservation) has on birds is not just about life or death, or absence or presence. It is the fact that there are intrinsic parts of the bird’s biology being altered by these factors. I had a great time working with Faith on this project – she was so enthusiastic, and I learned a lot about how artists can represent ideas through subjects.