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Title: Songbird abundance and parasatism differ between urban and rural shrublands
Author: Burhans, Dirk E.; Thompson, Frank R.
Publication: Ecological Applications, 16(1), 2006, pp. 394-405
Key Words: brood parasitism, Brown-headed Cowbird, landscape, nest predation, nesting success,
shrubland, songbirds, urban
Abstract: Many studies have examined differences in avian community composition between urban and rural habitats, but few, if any, have looked at nesting success of urban shrubland birds in a replicated fashion while controlling for habitat. We tested factors affecting nest survival, parasitism by the Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater), and species abundance in shrubland habitat in rural and urban landscapes. We found no support for our hypothesis that nest survival was lower in urban landscapes, but strong support for the hypothesis that survival increased with nest height. We found strong support for our hypothesis that cowbird parasitism was greater in urban than rural landscapes; parasitism in urban sites was at least twice that of rural sites. We found strong support for an urban landscape effect on abundance for several species; Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)and Brown-headed Cowbirds were more abundant in urban landscapes, whereas Field Sparrow(Spizella pusilla) and Blue-winged Warbler (Vermivora pinus) were more abundant inrural sites. There was support for lower abundances of Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptilacaerulea) and Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea) with increased housing density. For six other species, edge and trail density or vegetation parameters best explained abundance. Lower abundances and greater parasitism in habitat patches in urban landscapes are evidence that, for some species, these urban landscapes do not fulfill the same role as comparable habitats in rural landscapes. Regional bird conservation planning and local habitat management in urban landscapes may need to consider these effects in efforts to sustain bird populations at regional and local scales.
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