The bird population on the University of California, Berkeley, campus has remained surprisingly diverse over the past 100 years, showing that it's possible to create a green wildlife haven within a dense urban area, researchers say.
The good news comes from a survey conducted over a six-month period covering the winter of 2006-07, newly published in the May 2012 issue of the journal The Condor. The study, conducted during the non-breeding season, identified 48 separate bird species in an 84-acre portion of the 178-acre central campus. That's a greater number of species than the 44 and 46 recorded during surveys conducted in 1913-18 and 1938-39, respectively.
"The presumption going in was that we would see a steady decline in the number of species because the campus, like any urban environment, has been heavily modified, with more buildings and 15 times more students," said Rauri Bowie, UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology. "But despite everything that has happened on campus in the past century, we find absolutely no evidence for that."
Nevertheless, "the composition which birds were around actually changed pretty substantially over the past 93 years, conforming fairly well to the campus landscape at the time," said Allison Shultz, a former UC Berkeley student who conducted the survey for her honors thesis.
In 1913, the campus was an oak woodland that was interspersed with grassland and shrubby chaparral and dissected by Strawberry Creek and its forks. Song, White-Crowned and Golden-Crowned Sparrows, as well as Wrentits, were common in the brush, as were grassland species like the Western Meadowlark.
Today, these birds are rare. While the oaks have been preserved and Strawberry Creek restored to a native riparian habitat, the tall grasses and chaparral have been replaced by lawns and ornamental shrubs, an environment favored by species such as the Lesser Goldfinch, Nuttall's Woodpecker and the Che
|Contact: Robert Sanders|
University of California - Berkeley