Urban residents' perceptions of birds in the neighborhood: Biodiversity, cultural ecosystem services, and disservices

J. A. Belaire, L. M. Westphal, Christopher J. Whelan, E. S. Minor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As our world becomes increasingly urbanized, cities are often where we come into contact with the natural world-not just in parks and urban nature preserves, but in more familiar places like residential yards. We conducted bird surveys and social surveys in Chicago-area residential landscapes near forest preserves (primarily in middle- and highincome areas) to examine residents' perceptions of the birds that co-inhabit their neighborhoods and the relationship of those perceptions with characteristics of the bird community. We found that residents value many aspects of neighborhood birds, especially those related to aesthetics and birds' place in the ecosystem. Our results indicate that while birds were generally well liked and annoyances were minor, several common and visible urban species, such as the House Sparrow (Passer domesticus), European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris), and Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata), may attract attention for their negative qualities, such as their sounds and effects on personal property. The results also indicate that residents' valuations of ecosystem services are linked to their perceptions of bird species richness rather than the actual species richness, and people may perceive only a subset of the birds in their neighborhoods. Although birds provide many important ecosystem services, perhaps one of their most important roles in cities is as a relatable and likable connecting point between city dwellers and the broader environment.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)192-202
Number of pages11
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2015


  • INHS
  • Chicago
  • Urban bird
  • Residential landscapes
  • Ecosystem services

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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