About My Health Careers Internship MedBlogs Contact us

Study: Urban Birds 'Stressed By Human Activity'

by Rukmani Krishna on May 14, 2013 at 11:40 PM
Font : A-A+

 Study: Urban Birds 'Stressed By Human Activity'

According to a new study from scientists at Boise State University, even species considered "tolerant" of human activity might be adversely impacted by human disturbances.

They found that American Kestrels nesting in close proximity to roads and developed areas had elevated stress hormones and high rates of nest abandonment.


Boise State graduate student Erin Strasser, now with the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory, and Julie Heath, a professor in the Boise State Department of Biological Sciences and Raptor Research Center, conducted the research.

Strasser and Heath conducted research along one of Idaho's major expressways, Interstate 84, and in suburban and rural areas south of the state's capital city of Boise. Since 1987, researchers from Boise State and the U.S. Geological Survey have monitored a number of nest boxes located along the area's roadways, in people's back yards, and in sagebrush-steppe habitat.

In this study, Strasser and Heath were interested in understanding how human-dominated landscapes affect breeding kestrels, with particular attention paid to the link between disturbance, stress and nest failure.

The two monitored the boxes to determine nest fate, and collected a small blood sample from adult birds. The researchers were looking at corticosterone levels, which indicate stress levels (the equivalent in humans is cortisol). Corticosterone can lead to behavioral and physiological changes that allow individuals to cope with stressful situations, while suppressing other activities such as reproduction.

The data showed that female kestrels nesting in areas with high human activity, such as along noisy roadways, have higher corticosterone levels, but males do not. This could be because females spend more time in the nesting box and thus are exposed more often to stressors such as vehicle noise.

Too much ambient noise may make it difficult for them to assess the level of danger, leading to higher stress levels and increased vigilance behavior, decreased parental care or the decision to abandon their nest.

Kestrels nesting in high disturbance areas were almost 10 times more likely to abandon their nest than those in more isolated areas, and this effect lessened the further a nest was from the road.

"We hypothesized that this was a mechanism for how humans are impacting wildlife," Heath said.

"To birds, areas with human activity may be perceived as a high-risk environment," the researcher noted.

Given that the vast majority of land in the continental United States is within a mile of a road, wildlife increasingly are exposed to chronic levels of road noise. The resulting increase in stress levels could cause fundamental changes in physiology and behavior across species inhabiting human-dominated environments, which over time could lead to population declines.

The study concludes that until regulations or economic incentives are developed to encourage engineering innovations that result in quieter roads, projects in areas of human activity with favorable habitat should be discouraged to decrease the risk of ecological traps.

In the meantime, Boise State's nesting boxes have been moved from freeway locations to more suitable areas.

A paper describing the finding was published in the British Ecological Society's Journal of Applied Ecology.

Source: ANI

News A-Z
News Category
What's New on Medindia
International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2021 - Fighting for Rights in the Post-COVID Era
Effect of Blood Group Type on COVID-19 Risk and Severity
Woman with Rare Spinal Cord Defect from Birth Sues Doctor
View all

Medindia Newsletters Subscribe to our Free Newsletters!
Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Recommended Reading
Ban on Import of Birds from Australia Lifted By UAE
A ban on the import of live birds from Australia, saying no cases of bird flu have been detected in ...
Risk of Pandemic from Flu Strains in Pigs and Birds
A new study from MIT led by an Indian origin scientist has identified influenza viruses circulating ...
Birds With Fewer Offspring Live Longer, Says Study
A recent study on birds has revealed a strong correlation between reproduction and lifespan....

Disclaimer - All information and content on this site are for information and educational purposes only. The information should not be used for either diagnosis or treatment or both for any health related problem or disease. Always seek the advice of a qualified physician for medical diagnosis and treatment. Full Disclaimer

© All Rights Reserved 1997 - 2021

This site uses cookies to deliver our services. By using our site, you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Cookie Policy, Privacy Policy, and our Terms of Use