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Suburban Birds

January 24, 2014

According to a long-term study, the suburbs may actually be good for bird diversity.



Suburban birds. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Cedar waxwings are attracted to suburban habitats. (Susanne Bard)

Cedar waxwings are attracted to suburban habitats. (Susanne Bard)

The suburbs are often derided as soulless wastelands. But according to University of Washington wildlife scientist John Marzluff, they may actually be a boon to birds. He and his team have studied avian diversity across an urban gradient for more than a decade.

JOHN MARZLUFF (University of Washington):

What we have found is is that bird diversity increases as you go from the city out to the suburbs and then it drops again as you go into the forests. And that’s because you get a variety of species that specialize in suburban settings, and you also hold onto some of the more mature habitat specialists, and you gain some of the urban core specialists.

He says suburbanites can help birds thrive by keeping cats indoors, erecting bird feeders and nest boxes, and planting more trees and shrubs in their backyards. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.