Variability in ambient noise levels and call parameters of North Atlantic right whales in three habitat areas

Susan E. Parks, Ildar Urazghildiiev, Christopher W. Clark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


The North Atlantic right whale inhabits the coastal waters off the east coasts of the United States and Canada, areas characterized by high levels of shipping and fishing activities. Acoustic communication plays an important role in the social behavior of these whales and increases in low-frequency noise may be leading to changes in their calling behavior. This study characterizes the ambient noise levels, including both natural and anthropogenic sources, and right whale upcall parameters in three right whale habitat areas. Continuous recordings were made seasonally using autonomous bottom-mounted recorders in the Bay of Fundy, Canada (2004, 2005), Cape Cod Bay, (2005, 2006), and off the coast of Georgia (2004-2005, 2006-2007). Consistent interannual trends in noise parameters were found for each habitat area, with both the band level and spectrum level measurements higher in the Bay of Fundy than in the other areas. Measured call parameters varied between habitats and between years within the same habitat area, indicating that habitat area and noise levels alone are not sufficient to predict variability in call parameters. These results suggest that right whales may be responding to the peak frequency of noise, rather than the absolute noise level in their environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1230-1239
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics


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