Cognition mediates response to anthropogenic noise in wild Western Australian magpies (Gmynorhina tibicen dorsalis)

Grace Blackburn, Benjamin J. Ashton, Alex Thornton, Sarah Woodiss-Field, Amanda R. Ridley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


Anthropogenic noise is a pollutant of growing concern, with wide-ranging effects on taxa across ecosystems. Until recently, studies investigating the effects of anthropogenic noise on animals focused primarily on population-level consequences, rather than individual-level impacts. Individual variation in response to anthropogenic noise may result from extrinsic or intrinsic factors. One such intrinsic factor, cognitive performance, varies between individuals and is hypothesised to aid behavioural response to novel stressors. Here, we combine cognitive testing, behavioural focals and playback experiments to investigate how anthropogenic noise affects the behaviour and anti-predator response of Western Australian magpies (Gymnorhina tibicen dorsalis), and to determine whether this response is linked to cognitive performance. We found a significant population-level effect of anthropogenic noise on the foraging effort, foraging efficiency, vigilance, vocalisation rate and anti-predator response of magpies, with birds decreasing their foraging, vocalisation behaviours and anti-predator response, and increasing vigilance when loud anthropogenic noise was present. We also found that individuals varied in their response to playbacks depending on their cognitive performance, with individuals that performed better in an associative learning task maintaining their anti-predator response when an alarm call was played in anthropogenic noise. Our results add to the growing body of literature documenting the adverse effects of anthropogenic noise on wildlife and provide the first evidence for an association between individual cognitive performance and behavioural responses to anthropogenic noise.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6912-6930
Number of pages19
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number24
Early online date17 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • anthropogenic noise
  • behaviour
  • bird
  • cognition
  • individual variation
  • urbanisation


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