Urban habitats and feeders both contribute to flight initiation distance reduction in birds

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Abstract

Animals respond to approaching predators by taking flight at a distance that optimizes the costs and benefits of such flight. Previous studies have shown that urban populations of birds have shorter flight initiation distances than rural populations of the same species, that this difference is partly explained by differences in the community of predators, and that a longer history of urbanization implies a greater reduction in flight initiation distance in urban populations. The use of birdfeeders may be an additional factor reducing flight initiation distance not only in cities but also elsewhere by among other effects increasing body condition, increasing availability and reliability of food, and hence reducing the relative cost of flight. Here, we tested the prediction that urban habitats and presence of feeders independently accounted for reductions in flight initiation distance using extensive samples from different cities in Poland. We found independent significant effects of urban habitat and presence of feeders on flight initiation distance. These findings suggest that different factors have contributed to the “tameness” of urban birds.

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