|September 26th, 2007, 01:08 PM||#1|
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Urban Birds Cope to Survive
Urban birds have developed coping mechanisms to survive in cities: Study
Washington, Sept 26 (ANI): Birds that hang out in large urban areas have adapted to survive in a much larger range of conditions than their rural counterparts, a new study by researchers from the University of Washington has found.
And not only do they survive, but as the researchers found out, they also thrive.
This, the researchers say, is a sign that urban birds have developed coping mechanisms that rural birds might not have.
"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," John Wingfield, a UW biology professor said.
The study, supported in part by the National Science Foundation, is detailed in a paper that has been published online and will appear later this year in the print edition of the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.
Led by Frances Bonier, a postdoctoral researcher in biology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute conducted the study wherein 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 feedback 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.
Bonier said that some birds on the urban list - starlings, parrots, crows, sparrows, pigeons and doves - would be expected to be found in cities.
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 black-tailed trainbearer, a tiny hummingbird in Quito, Ecuador; the green bee-eater found in Giza, Egypt; and a small bird called the broad-billed tody that lives in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and is part of a group of birds found only in the Caribbean.
As a result of the research, the authors found that urban birds worldwide could endure a far broader range of environments than rural species. Urban species had elevation ranges more than 1,600 feet broader and their distribution covered about 10 degrees more of latitude, or about 700 miles.
"This sounds very intuitive, but there's never been any research confirming urban birds' adaptability. Fran's idea to send out the questionnaires provided the information that we lacked. This now gives us a hypothesis to work from for further research," Wingfield said.
The research, however does not clear that what allows some species to flourish in urban settings, the research supports previous findings that suggested the most specialized birds will have the hardest time adapting in an ever-changing world.
"In the face of global climate change and human disturbances, such as increased urbanization and deforestation, we may be able to identify species that can cope with such changes. Then we may be able to identify the species that cannot cope with these changes, or might even go extinct in the face of increased disruption," Wingfield said.
He further said that the information could be used to fine-tune conservation efforts to save those challenged species. (ANI)