Avian assemblages along a gradient of urbanization in a highly fragmented landscape

Kevin R. Crooks, Andrew Suarez, Douglas T. Bolger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Our goal was to evaluate how avian assemblages varied along a gradient of urbanization in the highly fragmented landscape of coastal southern California. We measured species richness and abundance of birds within continuous blocks of habitat, within urban habitat fragments that varied in landscape and local habitat variables, and within the urban matrix at different distances from the wildland interface. These comparisons allowed us to characterize patterns of avifaunal response to a gradient of urban fragmentation. At the fragment scale, we found that fragment area was a strong, positive predictor of the total number of breeding species detected per fragment; total bird abundance per point count also increased with fragment size. Tree cover was higher in small fragments, as was the abundance of birds that typically occupy wooded habitats. Comparisons between core, fragment, and urban transects revealed differing patterns of response of individual bird species to urbanization. In unfragmented habitat, we recorded a relatively high diversity of urbanization-sensitive birds. In urban transects, these species were rare, and a relatively few species of non-native and anthropophilic birds were common. These urbanization-enhanced birds were also recorded in previous urban gradient studies in northern California and Ohio. Bird communities along the urban gradient reached their highest richness and abundance in fragments. The marked difference in vegetation structure between urban and natural landscapes in this arid shrubland system likely contributed to this pattern; the presence of native shrubs and exotic trees in fragments enabled both shrub and arboreal nesters to co-occur. As is characteristic of biotic homogenization, urban fragmentation in coastal southern California may increase local diversity but decrease overall regional avifaunal diversity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)451-462
Number of pages12
JournalBiological Conservation
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2004


  • Birds
  • California (USA)
  • Gradient
  • Habitat fragmentation
  • Urban

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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