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Mere fear shrinks bird families

Just hearing recordings of predators caused sparrows to raise fewer babies

Nothing but fear itself can actually be dangerous for nesting birds.

Song sparrows protected from attack but subjected to recordings of predator yowls and leaf-crunching approach noises raised 40 percent fewer offspring in a year compared with neighbors living amid innocuous noises, says population ecologist Liana Zanette of the University of Western Ontario in Canada. Predators do not need to kill a single prey to have a big effect, she says.

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