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City birds better than rural species in coping with human disruption
Date:9/25/2007

Birds that hang out in large urban areas seem to have a marked advantage over their rural cousins they are adaptable enough to survive in a much larger range of conditions.

In fact, new research from the University of Washington suggests that the adaptability of many urban bird species means they don't just survive but actually thrive in what might be considered to be a very challenging environment.

"The urban habitat is usually more severe than the habitats these birds historically occupied. Urban habitats aren't easy, so the birds have to have developed coping mechanisms," said John Wingfield, a UW biology professor involved in the research.

The study was led by Frances Bonier, a postdoctoral researcher in biology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, who did the work as a UW doctoral student before moving to Virginia Tech. Co-author Paul Martin, now an assistant professor of biology at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, also took part in the research as a UW doctoral student.

Ornithologists, biologists and birdwatchers around the world were sent questionnaires that asked them to list 10 common native breeding birds found in their cities. The responses produced data on 217 urban bird species from 73 of the world's largest cities and 247 rural species. To be considered "rural," a species could not be described as breeding in human-disturbed habitats such as towns and cities, and its natural breeding distribution must overlap at least one of the large cities, implying that at one time the species occupied the area where the city is now.

Some birds on the urban list starlings, parrots, crows, sparrows, pigeons and doves would be expected to be found in cities, Bonier said. However the researchers only looked at species native to a particular area, so starlings and sparrows native to Europe but found in North American cities, for example, did not count. Less-common species found in cities included the bl
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Contact: Vince Stricherz
vinces@u.washington.edu
206-543-2580
University of Washington
Source:Eurekalert

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