Habitat Affects Escape Behavior of Birds

First Posted: Nov 08, 2012 12:23 AM EST

It seems birds of the same species raised in diverse settings behave differently in the face of a threat. Birds raised in an urban environment react differently than country-bred birds when faced with a predator.

A study undertaken by Diego Ibanez-Alamo, researcher at the University of Granada (UGR) and Anders Pape Moller from Paris-Sud University, highlights the fact that urbanization plays an influential role in a bird's survival strategies.

They analyzed the escape techniques of 1,132 birds belonging to 15 species in different rural and urban areas.

The study showed that city birds have changed their behavior to adapt to new threats like cats, which are their main enemies in an urban habitat, instead of their more traditional enemies in the countryside, such as the sparrow hawk.

"When they are captured, city birds are less aggressive, they produce alarm calls more frequently, they remain more paralyzed when attacked by their predator and they lose more feathers than their countryside counterparts,"  explained by Juan Diego Ibanez-Alamo.

They were surprised to see that urbanization was directly linked with these differences. This finding gives rise to the concept that escape strategies evolve alongside the expansion of cities.

"It is crucial to discover how birds adapt to transformations in their habitat so that we can decrease their effects," said Ibanez-Alamo..

"Predation change caused by city growth is serious," outlined Ibanez-Alamo.

As the scientist indicates, tactics against their hunters are "crucial" so that birds can adapt to their new environment: "Birds should modify their behavior to be able to survive in cities because if not, they will become extinct at the mercy of urban growth."

These results appear in the journal, Animal Behavior.

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