Thumbnail Image


Urbanization and suburbanization (hereafter, used interchangeably) can create some of the most drastically altered habitats of all anthropogenic land uses. Despite this, many wildlife species, including roughly 20% of the world’s birds, can be found in cities. Furthermore, research has shown that suburban forest patches can have important conservation value for birds. As urbanized areas rapidly grow, in terms of both geographical extent and human population, and as numerous bird species experience population declines, understanding how avian species fare in these areas has never been more vital. Not only is this knowledge timely for avian conservation, but for the human population, who, while increasingly disconnected from nature, can garner valuable health and wellbeing benefits from interacting with birds. In this dissertation, I compared avian success between suburban/urban forest patches (suburban sites) and larger swaths of contiguous forest (rural sites) in western Massachusetts. For the first part of my dissertation, I investigated the abundance of several bird species in suburban and rural sites. I then focused on nest survival and fledgling survival of a declining neotropical migrant, the Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina), as well as the nest/fledgling predator community and the movement of post-fledgling Wood Thrushes. N-mixture models of 15 species indicated that neotropical migrants were more likely to have negative responses to urbanization compared to short distance migrants or resident species, but this pattern did not hold true for all species, including Wood Thrush. Survival analysis of 253 Wood Thrush nests indicated that survival was comparable between suburban and rural sites. Using predator surveys, I found that suburban sites had a higher abundance or density of potential nest/fledgling predators compared to rural sites. Video monitoring of Wood Thrush nests showed a suite of nest predators. These nest survival and predator survey results, taken together, are evidence of the “predation paradox” phenomenon- an apparent mismatch between predator abundance and actual predation in urbanized areas- for nesting Wood Thrush. Using survival analysis of 168 radio-tagged Wood Thrush fledglings, I found that survival was comparable between suburban and rural sites, indicating the existence of the predation paradox patterns for the understudied fledgling life stage. Rural fledglings moved farther, at any given age, than suburban fledglings, suggesting possible barriers to movement in suburban sites. Overall, the results of this dissertation work support the conservation value of suburban forest patches for Wood Thrush. More work is needed to better understand mechanisms of the predation paradox, as well as the impacts of potential barriers to movement for fledglings using suburban areas. Further work is also timely for assessing the conservation value of suburban forest patches for other sensitive species.
Research Projects
Organizational Units
Journal Issue
Publisher Version
Embedded videos