Urban birds around the world: A new study finds they're a lot like many Tucson birds

2014-02-19T23:01:00Z 2014-02-19T23:24:16Z Urban birds around the world: A new study finds they're a lot like many Tucson birdsTony Davis Arizona Daily Star
February 19, 2014 11:01 pm  • 

Last year, the Star ran this article  on the proliferation of urban birds in Tucson, particularly those that like to hang at our artificial lakes, led by but hardly limited to the Lakes at Castle Rock subdivision on the far northeast side.

Now, a new global study has found this phenomenon is hardly confined to Tucson. The study, just published in the Proceedings in the Royal Society of London, examined the birds in 54 cities and plants in 110 cities worldwide, said a news release from the University of Missouri, which provided one of the project's researcher. Phoenix was among the cities studied, said the release, which also cited Baltimore, Berlin, Jalisco in Mexico, New York City, Potchefstroom in South Africa and Stockholm as among the cities where urban birds were studied.

The researchers found four types of birds that prefer what the study called concrete jungles – pigeons, waterfowl, raptors and house sparrows, said the news release, which quoted UMissouri Prof. of Fisheries and Wildlife, Charles Nilon, one of the co-researchers. This would come as no surprise to many Tucson birdwatchers who have seen scores and scores of such birds in artificial lakes and elsewhere.

Pigeons and house sparrows have lived with people for centuries, but no one knows how long, Nilon said in the news release. These birds chose the city for roosting places such as urban buildings and tasty food that people throw away, the release said.

Waterfowl are drawn to urban lakes because they contain few of the birds' natural predators, and raptors can find ready food sources in a centralized location in urban areas and have fewer competitors, the news release said. Among the raptors commonly found in urban Tucson, for instance, are Harris' and Cooper's hawks. Any number of duck species, led by mallards, wigeons, shovelers, canvasbacks, various varieties of teal, buffleheads and along with pied-billed and eared grebes, can be seen at our lakes and in the artificial water bodies at the Sweetwater Wetlands.

Surprisingly, Nilon said, these four types of birds were found in all of the cities globally that the researchers surveyed, the new release said. But in total, only eight percent of native bird species who could inhabit the city choose to do so, the news release said. The study contained a call to action: that urban planners should create new habitats to increase urban bird and plant populations and attract new species.

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Star reporter Tony Davis covers topics in this blog that you have read under his byline for more than 30 years in the Southwest: water, growth, sprawl, pollution, climate change, endangered species, mining, grazing and traffic.

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