Songbirds divorce, flee, fail to reproduce due to suburban sprawl

(University of Washington, January 3, 2017)

Suburban development is forcing some songbirds to divorce, pack up and leave and miss their best chances for successful reproduction.

As forested areas increasingly are converted to suburbs, birds that live on the edge of our urban footprint must find new places to build their nests, breed and raise fledglings. New research published Dec. 28 in the journal PLOS ONE finds that for one group of songbirds — called “avoiders” — urban sprawl is kicking them out of their territory, forcing divorce and stunting their ability to find new mates and reproduce successfully, even after relocating.

“The hidden cost of suburban development for these birds is that we force them to do things that natural selection wouldn’t have them do otherwise,” said lead author John Marzluff, a professor of wildlife science in the University of Washington’s School of Environmental and Forest Sciences.

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