Landscape and yard-scale characteristics drive house sparrow (Passer domesticus) nest site selection in the northeastern USA
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Urban Naturalist. 36: 1–11.
Urbanization alters wildlife habitat through the removal of native vegetation and replacement with more exotic plants, and installation of impervious surfaces. Thus, many urban areas have become unsuitable for some species, yet favorable for others, particularly generalist and invasive species. Understanding some of the habitat features enabling invasive species to exploit urban environments has important conservation implications. Here, we focus on the nest site characteristics of the introduced House Sparrow (Passer domesticus Linnaeus) in residential yards in Springfield, MA, US. First introduced to the US in the 1850s, the House Sparrow is one of North America’s most widespread and abundant species. To improve our understanding of nest site characteristics, we investigated how different habitat features, both at local and landscape scales, influence the presence of House Sparrow nests in yards. We located active House Sparrow nests along an urban intensity gradient and measured habitat features at both local and landscape scales. Our analysis indicated that the percent shrub cover in yards and the amount of impervious surface within a 1 km radius of a yard had the highest support for explaining the presence of a House Sparrow nest (specifically, yards with low shrub cover and high local impervious surface were more likely to support a nest). We applied the regression model to determine how much shrub cover at the yard scale is required to decrease the probability of a House Sparrow nesting in a particular yard. When impervious cover was 30%, yards with at least 13% shrub cover reduced the probability of a sparrow nest occurrence in a yard to below 50%. Our results have potential implications for conservation efforts of House Sparrow competitors in their introduced range and for House Sparrows in their native range, where they are a species of conservation concern. Here in the US, increasing shrub cover and structural complexity has the potential to discourage House Sparrow nesting.
Lerman, Susannah B.; DeLuca, William V. 2020. Landscape and yard-scale characteristics drive house sparrow (Passer domesticus) nest site selection in the northeastern USA. Urban Naturalist. 36: 1–11.