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Human food scraps change Steller’s jay behavior

Cara J

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Crumbs on a picnic table may seem like a minor way to alter an ecosystem, but they and other campground refuse are enough to restructure how jays use space, according to new research. In California’s Redwood National and State Parks, Steller’s jays (Cyanocitta stelleri) that lived near campgrounds had densely overlapping territories, and they spent more time near the ground than their deep-woods kin. The jays’ altered behavior could have unpredictable consequences for species that campers never see, including a threatened seabird called the marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus). “Steller’s jays are attracted to the campgrounds for food,” said Will Goldenberg, who conducted the study recently published in The Condor: Ornithological Applications for his master’s thesis at Humboldt University. “The concern is that these Steller’s jays are now going to predate our marbled murrelets that could be nesting right above these campgrounds, way up in some of the tallest trees in the world.” Goldenberg first recognized the ecological threat posed by members of the crow family, known as corvids, while he was studying threatened snowy plovers (Charadrius nivosus) as an undergraduate research assistant at Humboldt University. Time and again, says Goldenberg, he saw the shorebirds’ eggs destroyed by hungry corvids that [...]


Read more: http://wildlife.org/human-food-scraps-change-stellers-jay-behavior/

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