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Backyard Birds Enhance Life in Urban Neighborhoods


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To study the relationship between people and nature in a city setting, researchers surveyed breeding birds and human residents in 25 neighborhoods adjacent to forest preserves in the Chicago area. A new study published in The Condor: Ornithological Applications by J. Amy Belaire and Emily Minor of St. Edward’s University, Lynne Westphal of the U.S. Forest Service, and Christopher Whelan of the University of Illinois at Chicago found that residents’ feelings toward birds were generally very positive, although a few people found bird droppings, nests in gutters, and other nuisances to be annoying, especially in neighborhoods where specific problem birds such as House Sparrows and Common Grackles were more abundant. Though the questionnaire asked respondents to estimate how many bird species were found around their homes, there was no relationship between residents’ perceptions of bird diversity and the actual species numbers observed in the bird surveys. Instead, the more favorable someone’s feelings about local birds, the more species they guessed were present. The researchers suggest that programs such as citizen science projects can increase people’s awareness of their neighborhoods’ avian diversity. This study reinforces the idea that birds are an important point of connection between city dwellers and the natural world. Read the full article at http://www.aoucospubs.org/doi/full/10.1650/CONDOR-14-128.1.

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