Detrimental effects of urbanization on the diet, health, and signal coloration of an ecologically successful alien bird.
Theory suggests that overcrowding and increased competition in urban environments might be detrimental to individual condition in avian populations. Unfavourable living conditions could be compounded by changes in dietary niche with additional consequences for individual quality of urban birds. We analysed the isotopic signatures, signal coloration, body condition, parasitic loads (feather mites and coccidia), and immune responsiveness of 191 adult common (Indian) mynas (Acridotheres tristis) captured in 19 localities with differing levels of urbanization. The isotopic signature of myna feathers differed across low and high urbanized habitats, with a reduced isotopic niche breadth found in highly urbanized birds. This suggests that birds in high urban environments may occupy a smaller foraging niche to the one of less urbanized birds. In addition, higher degrees of urbanization were associated with a decrease in carotenoid-based coloration, higher ectoparasite loads and higher immune responsiveness. This pattern of results suggests that the health status of mynas from more urbanized environments was poorer than mynas from less modified habitats. Our findings are consistent with the theory that large proportions of individual birds that would otherwise die under natural conditions survive due to prevailing top-down and bottom-up ecological processes in cities. Detrimental urban ecological conditions and search for more favourable, less crowded habitats offers the first reasonable explanation for why an ecological invader like the common myna continues to spread within its global invasive range.