City Birds Are More Aggressive Than Their Rural Counterparts, Study Finds

Posted: Jul 17 2016, 3:40am CDT | by , Updated: Jul 17 2016, 9:32pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News


City Birds are More Aggressive than their Rural Counterparts, Study Finds
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Birds that live in suburban areas exhibit significantly higher levels of territorial aggression than those living in rural areas.

People living in cities have a reputation of being shrewd and less friendly than their rural counterparts and the same appears to be true for city birds.

Researchers have found that birds that live in suburban areas show more aggression than those living in the countryside. A possible reason for this is dense population that leads to intense competition for getting hold of limited yet better resources.

“A possible reason for this is that these birds have less space but better resources to defend," said biological scientist Scott Davies.  “Living near humans provides better food and shelter, but it also means more competition for these limited resources.”

To observe the aggressive behavior in birds, researchers from Virginia Tech conducted experiments in both rural and urban sites. They played a recording of male song sparrow and then, they checked the responses of birds living in both these settings to this fake intrusion from a neighbor. The outcome was based on how often bird approached or attacked the speaker and researchers noticed a clear difference in the behavior of urban and their rural peers.

Suburban birds showed a higher level of territorial aggression. They often got close to the intruder, flapped their wings furiously and produced loud sounds to scare it away and to defend their territory. Rural birds, on the other hand, exhibited a less aggressive behavior, indicating that food rich, high quality territories may contribute to their responses. 

The responses of birds were noted again after several weeks to check the consistency in their behavior. Researchers had placed small leg bands on the individual birds to identity each later on.

“This finding supports past research showing that urban birds are more aggressive in defending their territories," said neurophysiologist Kiki Sanford, who was not involved in the study. “We need to understand widespread behavioral differences between various species of urban and rural bird populations to get an idea of how urbanization will affect their survival and diversity in the future. Testosterone and population density are the usual predictors for aggression, but there are other influential factors, like increased food availability in urban environments, that need to be examined.”

The findings of the study will help researchers to understand the impact of human population expansion on the growth of wildlife - an aspect that will become increasingly important as the world population will increase substantially and around 2 billion more people will be added to the planet by 2050. Knowing the affects of human population growth will make it easier for wildlife management to create such an environment where animals can adjust and persist.


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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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