Using a birdfeeder network to explore the effects of suburban design on invasive and native birds.
Studying the effects of urbanization on native wildlife presents an opportunity for us to learn how to design anthropogenic habitats that can best support wildlife and humans alike. In order to explore which types of suburban development best support bird diversity, a network of 16 bird feeders was installed across a university campus to compare bird diversity and community composition at locations varying in land covers such as natural forest, lawn, plantings, pavement, and buildings. Birds were observed at all feeder stations over three seasons and mist-nets were used to capture and band birds during the summer. Bird species richness, diversity, and invasive species dominance varied significantly across the feeder station sites, with higher diversity in less urbanized locations with larger areas of natural forest. Invasive House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) dominated the most urban sites and were associated with larger areas of buildings and herbaceous plantings. However, when sites with natural forest were removed from the analysis, the area of trees planted over lawn was associated with higher diversity, indicating that an increase in tree cover can support diversity in a completely developed landscape. Midscale suburban developments typically feature lawns, pavement, and landscaped plantings, but our results indicate that replacing lawns with trees, or better yet, restored forest patches, may allow us to preserve and even increase the biodiversity of our rapidly multiplying suburban landscapes.