Winter Bird Use of Urban and Rural Habitats in Ontario

Paul G. R. Smith


This study examined variation in winter bird diversity, abundance, biomass and species and guild composition on plots in farmland, rural forests, mixed rural habitat, cities and three categories of urban natural areas in southern Ontario. Small (<20 g), insectivorous, upper canopy, bark foraging and forest species were more prevalent in rural mixed habitat, urban natural areas and especially rural forests. Larger (20-100 g), ground feeding and omnivorous birds typified cities and farms. Many bird species classified as forest, forest edge and field species during summer also favored these same habitats during winter. The 52 sample plots can be accurately classified into the seven habitat categories through discriminant analysis using the percentages of small species, insectivores, forest species and alien species. Urban natural areas, forests and mixed rural habitat showed the highest diversity while cities and farms showed the lowest diversity. Both bird abundance and biomass were highest in urban natural areas with open water and urban residential and commercial areas, whereas both were lowest in farmland.


bird populations; urban ecology; winter; urban-rural ecological gradient; Ontario

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