Neighborhood Nestwatch: Science in the urban jungle.
Peter P. Marra
The most serious threat facing animal populations in North America today is habitat destruction. Rampant urbanization in the eastern United States has caused declines or regional disappearance in many migratory songbird populations. Ironically, we know little about the stability of bird populations remaining in urban centers, a situation partially due to difficulties accessing privately owned neighborhood areas where these birds exist. In 2000, we initiated the Neighborhood Nestwatch Program to bring people within communities into contactóliteral physical contact with birds in their backyard and to teach them to monitor the nesting activities and survival of these birds from year to year. Our research focuses on eight common bird species of the Washington D.C. / Baltimore corridor and attempts to answer several important questions. First, within the urban to rural land-use gradient, to what degree do species living in urban/suburban/rural areas successfully reproduce and survive, and second, what local habitat and landscape factors explain the variation in these life-history traits? As part of this study we are also measuring the uptake and effects of lead in urban birds and the distribution and impact of West Nile virus on bird populations. Finally, we are quantifying the effectiveness of this citizen science program on increasing science literacy. Since 2000, we have color-banded and collected data on over 6,000 resident and migratory birds at 200 backyard study sites across this urban to rural land-use gradient.
Citizen science, birds, urban ecology,