City birds adapt better than rural species

Sept. 26, 2007 at 12:31 PM
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SEATTLE, Sept. 26 (UPI) -- A U.S. study suggests birds living in urban areas are more adaptable and can survive under a much larger range of conditions than other birds.

University of Washington researchers said their findings suggest the adaptability of many urban bird species means they don't just survive, but actually thrive in a very challenging environment.

Ornithologists, biologists and birdwatchers around the world were asked to list 10 common native breeding birds found in their cities. The responses produced data on 217 bird species from 73 of the world's largest cities and 247 rural species.

The researchers learned urban birds worldwide can 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," said UW Professor John Wingfiel. "This now gives us a hypothesis to work from for further research."

The work, led by former UW doctoral students Frances Bonier and Paul Martin, is detailed in a paper to be published later this year in the journal Biology Letters.

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