Effects of noise on pure-tone thresholds in blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus and Molothrus ater) and pigeons (Columba livia).

R. D. Hienz, M. B. Sachs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Blackbirds and pigeons were trained to detect tones in quiet and in broadband noise by using positive-reinforcement techniques. In Experiment 1, thresholds in noise were obtained in blackbirds as a function of both tone frequency and noise intensity for a pulsed noise masker (noise gated on and off with tone). For blackbirds, critical ratios (the ratio of the power of the just-detectable tone in noise to the power of the noise masker) obtained in pulsed noise showed no consistent relation to tone frequency. For pigeons, on the other hand, critical ratios obtained in continuous noise increased by about 3 dB/octave across their range of hearing, being similar to known critical ratio functions for cats and humans. In Experiment 2, critical ratios in blackbirds obtained with both continuous noise and pulsed noise were compared. Blackbird critical ratios were more stable in continuous noise and averaged 4 dB lower than critical ratios in pulsed noise. The blackbird critical ratio function obtained with continuous noise was similar to the known critical ratio function of another avian species, the parakeet. Thus, small birds appear to have atypical critical ratio functions, compared with pigeons and other vertebrates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16-24
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of comparative psychology (Washington, D.C. : 1983)
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)


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