Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Dissertations that have an embargo placed on them will not be available to anyone until the embargo expires.



Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program

Organismic & Evolutionary Biology

Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



The Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina) is declining throughout its range, yet is capable of persisting in both contiguous forests and small forest patches surrounded by human suburban development. Thus, it is an ideal species for gaining insight into the effects of suburbanization on migrant songbirds. I investigated two aspects of Wood Thrush nesting ecology: nest ectoparasites and nest defense behavior in order to determine if suburbanization influences either aspect. Nests from suburban forests had fewer haematophagous mites, though the abundance of haematophagous blowfly larvae did not differ between suburban and contiguous forests. There was no relationship between the abundance of mites and nest site characteristics, though blowfly abundance may be related to nesting substrate species. Parasites had little effect on nestling condition. In regard to nest defense, suburban Wood Thrushes had shorter flight initiation distances and mounted more active defenses during initial nest visits than birds nesting in contiguous forests, suggesting a previously-established sensitization response to human disturbances in suburban birds. I found no consistent shifts in aggression over subsequent nest visits in either habitat type, suggesting that throughout the breeding season, Wood Thrushes neither habituate nor sensitize further to repeated human disturbances. My results suggest that Wood Thrushes nesting in suburban forest patches are subject to fewer nest ectoparasites and defend their nests more aggressively than conspecifics nesting in contiguous forests. These results draw attention to the fact that although Wood Thrushes persist in both rural and suburban habitats, their nesting ecology may be different between these habitat types.


First Advisor

Paige S Warren