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How are birds doing in the urban environment?
“UrbanBirds” is a research program at Lund University, the Department of Biology, aiming to investigate how different factors in the urban environment affect bird populations.

A road for bicycles with green bushes and a blue sign with walking people.

Pollution from particulate matter, noise, artificial light, temperature and bird feeding are of particular interest, but focus will also be on ecological changed caused by urbanization.

In Sweden, we are mainly focusing on small passerine birds, for example the blue tit and great tit. We will conduct both national and international projects.

One national project that will start during 2017 is a “Citizen Science” project, which seeks to involve citizens in collecting data for science. The aim of this project is to investigate how bird feeding, temperature and urbanization interact to affect survival and breeding success of blue tits and great tits.

It is well known that bird-feeding can increase survival rates of small birds during winter. However, are the effects of bird-feeding always positive? Do the positive effects remain even if the ground is not covered by snow and the temperature is above zero degrees Celsius? Furthermore, does it matter what we feed birds? Is there “junk food” even for birds or is food availability itself the biggest problem?

In the future, cities will continue to grow and densify. At the same time, the need for conserving green space is important for both our own health and wellbeing, but also for the inherent value of the natural environment. The disappearance or local extinction of species is part of the problem of urbanization.

In the 1960’s, Rachel Carson published the book “Silent Spring”, which shed light on the negative effects of environmental pollution on wild animals. The book had a huge impact on the world and its title reflects the massive loss of bird populations as a result of industrialization.

The present environmental debate is not as ardent as it was in the 60’s and 70’s, despite the ongoing and rapid development of urban areas across the globe. The reason for this is most likely the subtle nature of urbanization, and the seemingly invisible effects that it has on bird populations. Besides, some effects can even be positive rather than negative.

There is perhaps a fine balance between the negative and the positive effects of urbanization, and at present we know little about if and when the negative effects override the positive effects and/or which factors are involved.

Page Manager:


Responsible researcher: Docent Caroline Isaksson (caroline [dot] isaksson [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se)

Other researchers: Prof. Jan-Åke Nilsson, PhD Hannah Watson and PhD Maria von Post

Questions? Send an email to Urbanbirds [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se