Ardea
Official journal of the Netherlands Ornithologists' Union

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Mikula P. (2014) Pedestrian density influences flight distances of urban birds. ARDEA 102 (1): 53-60
Birds inhabiting urban areas have to cope with novel conditions. Unlike natural habitats, birds in urban environments are exposed to an increased human presence which often induces stress. Urban birds with reduced sensitivity to human disturbance can obtain benefits such as longer foraging time or decreased energy costs for escape. Here, I tested the hypothesis that the decrease in flight initiation distance (FID) to a potential predator (an approaching human) reflects adaptation to the level of disturbance expressed as pedestrian density. Moreover, I studied the influence of habitat type and species on observed FIDs. I analysed 2117 flight distances (20 species of European birds) located in ten localities in Prague. I found that species and pedestrian density play a more important role in determining FIDs than the type of habitat. Moreover, urban populations exposed to increased pedestrian density had consistently shorter flight distances. This study provides empirical documentation of changes in anti-predator behaviour, which strongly correlate with the pedestrian density gradient. It could support the idea that the establishment of FID can be highly plastic process depending on local conditions, as it is highly affected by a birdís individuality and its ability to adapt to the local level of disturbance by learning.


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