Air Quality Index (AQI) map showing smoke plume on June 8, 2023.

Smoke Signals

Image above: Air Quality Index (AQI) map showing smoke plume on June 8 from AirNow.

You likely read about or experienced the heavy smoke generated by Canadian wildfires in June 2023. Humans living in affected areas were advised to take safety precautions, but what about local wildlife?  Did smoke impact their behavior?  Did birds stay cozy and quiet in their nests like their human neighbors?

Maybe not.  We scanned Haikubox data and looked at bird vocalization trends at three Haikuboxes (Washington, DC, New Jersey and New York), indicated by blue dots on the map above. 

We didn't see birdsong decreases on smoky days.

For example, Northern Cardinal activity was robust across the smoke-impacted area on June 8 (same date as the AQI map, above), as shown on this map, where larger circles indicate more birdsong.

Looking at the Cardinal vocalization trend data at our three targeted sites (below), we saw no dramatic changes that would suggest big behavioral changes on smoky days. In early June, Cardinals were already vocalizing infrequently at the Washington, DC Haikubox, continued their steady calling at the New Jersey site and were variable, but on a slowly decreasing trajectory in New York.

What about other bird species? The activity maps on June 8 for other common northeastern US bird species (below), including the American Robin, Carolina Wren, and Tufted Titmouse also showed lots of vocalizations.

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