Good for the environment? Why hummingbirds love fracking

Black-chinned Hummingbird, male
Source: Wikicommons, Larry & Teddy Page

People may object to the noise created by shale drilling but for the black-chinned hummingbird it’s music to their ears. Scientists have discovered that the black-chinned hummingbirds love the din caused by fracking as is scares away predators and increases the hummingbirds’ nesting capacity and the rate at which they pollinate flowers.

Dr Clinton Francis, from California Polytechnic State University, led a study that compared numbers of hummingbird nests around noisy and quieter gas extraction sites. It turns out that on noisy sites they found as many as 36 black-chinned hummingbird nests, compared to just three on sites where the noise was much lower.

“This is noise from natural gas extraction activities,” he told the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in San Jose, California.

“Our operating hypothesis, which we have confirmed, is that some of the major nest predators may be absent from the noisy sites.

“The hummingbirds may be benefiting from the absence of some key threats that they encounter during nesting.

“They are not the only species that appear to benefit from this noise. House finches are also there.”

A test involving artificial flowers containing “pollen” in the form of fluorescent powder confirmed that hummingbird pollination rates increased at the noisy sites.

“We found that a proxy for pollination rate, which was the movement of this fluorescent powder routinely used in pollination studies, was much higher in the noisier areas,” said Francis.

But he stressed that man-made noise generally drove wild species away.

“You have lower densities of most species in general and about a one-third reduction in the species richness,” he said.

“What you tend to lose are the very uncommon species that tend to be very sensitive.”

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