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Monday, May 01, 2006

Birding Gotham

Last Friday, I conducted a bird count as I walked the two+ miles up ninth street from my hotel near Penn Station to the American Museum of Natural History. This area is almost completely built up, with a few street trees, rooftop plantings, and a little bit of landscaping around near Lincoln Center. Here's the count:

Rock Pigeon--375
European Starling--60
House Sparrow--110
Herring Gull--2
American Robin--2 (flyovers)

Compare this to the birdlist I compiled in a couple of hours of birding later that day in the Ramble of Central Park--which included 171 individuals of 42 species, and you can see a pretty clear lesson from urban ecology:

Built up urban areas dominated by buildings and concrete may have more individual birds of fewer species, while parks and vegetated areas will usually have more species, but lower numbers of individual birds.

How does the urban area support so many birds? I saw an average of about 8 pigeons on each block...feeding on spilled food and other items in the early morning before traffic picked up. So, there's lots of human leftovers to eat. The most startling for me (OK, maybe I live a sheltered life) was to see starlings eating human vomit off the sidewalk!

Central Park was great by comparison. Lots of good migratory birds in the Ramble, including a couple of Veery's. I was also able to get Larry (a male Red-winged Blackbird back for his second Spring) to land on my hand and eat some seeds, and Lola (Pale Male's mate) circled over the trees off towards her nest on the Upper East Side. Lots of good stuff to see and gorgeous weather to enjoy them in.

2 comments:

Chris said...

"Monoculture" - is that the term used for the barren habitat of the urban concrete? I'm sure comparisons of species diversification have been done for golf courses as well - or suburban tracks. What is astounding is the adaptability of the species that do live in the urban wilderness - I have no great love for pigeons and starlings, but they do survive and apparently thrive.

Home Bird said...

Thanks for the interesting post, Rob. Although I've moved out of the suburbs now, I'm still always interested in learning more about our urban and suburban situation. The efforts to green up our cities seem to me to be a neglected but crucial area of conservation.

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