The Effects of Humans on Avian Escape Behavior

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Lewanski, Alexander
project description
Habitat fragmentation and increased human activity impacts animals in multiple ways including altering their responses to human encounters. This project’s objective was to investigate how habitat availability and human activity influenced the disturbance tolerance of Clay-colored Sparrows (Spizella pallida) and Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) in the Twin Cities region of Minnesota. Birds were experimentally approached at grassland and wetland patches with varying amounts of habitat abundance and levels of human activity in and around each site. Results indicated that both factors influenced the birds' sensitivity to humans and that effects occurred at both the patch and landscape levels. The human disturbance tolerance of Clay-colored Sparrow seemed to be most influenced by the patch area as well as the amount of habitat within 1600 m of each site. For Red-winged Blackbirds, human disturbance tolerance was interactively affected by both patch size and landscape habitat and appeared to be equally influenced by 700 m, 1200 m, and 1600 m factors. The results provide evidence that birds are selecting sites based on their individual human disturbance tolerance as well as emphasize how multiple scales can mediate avian sensitivity to humans.