Predation on artificial bird nests along an urban gradient: Predatory risk or relaxation in urban environments?

J. C. Gering, Robert B. Blair

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146 Scopus citations


Urbanization - the anthropogenic conversion of natural ecosystems into human-dominated ecosystems - has occurred on global scales. The human-dominated landscape presents particular challenges to researchers because the effects of urbanization on ecological processes are not well understood. We investigated the influence of urbanization on predation by conducting an artificial nest experiment along an urban gradient of six sites ranging from natural to urbanized ecosystems. Previous hypotheses suggest that predation pressures in urban environments will either 1) increase because of the high abundance of exotic species which act as predators or 2) decrease due to the lack of natural predators. To determine relative predation pressures among sites along the urban gradient, we monitored the fates of 16 artificial avian nests at each of the six sites for a total of 96 nests in each year (1996, 1997). We analyzed the dependency of nest fate (depredated or undisturbed) on intensity of urbanization (sites along the urban gradient), nest height (ground, above-ground), and year using loglinear models. The frequency of nest predation was strongly dependent on site along the urban gradient, indicating that urbanization intensity was an important determinant of nest fate. Predation pressure exhibited an overall decline from natural to urban sites in both years, suggesting that urban environments have low predation pressures relative to natural areas. The predatory relaxation in urban environments may partially explain the greater abundance of some species in urban environments, particularly urban exploiters such as european starlings Sturnis vulgaris, house sparrows Passer domesticus, and rock doves Columba livia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)532-541
Number of pages10
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1999


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