My independent honors research project investigated the effects of human land use on the structure of male house finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) songs in California. Birds that learn their songs can quickly adapt their songs to their acoustic environments to ensure that they are audible for their intended audience. Researchers have demonstrated that several passerines increase the minimum frequency of their songs in more urbanized environments to avoid overlap with anthropogenic noise, so I predicted that the house finch would have higher-pitched songs in more developed areas. To investigate this question, I analyzed the phonological structure of house finch songs from males recorded across a gradient of human land use intensity throughout California. Songs were analyzed using FinchCatcher software. I developed a novel quantitative metric of human land use that produced a ratio of developed to non-developed land on a fine scale. I found no significant relationship between the extent of human land use and the structure or frequency of house finch song, suggesting that scale is likely important in such land use analyses.
Advisor: David Lahti, CUNY Queens College