Birds connect us to nature in urban spaces. How people regard them, whether good or bad, depends a lot on which birds they see and know the most. The perception of a wide variety of birds has been linked to well-being and neighborhood satisfaction. Some birds, however, like European starlings or common grackles, evoke negative associations.
When residents perceive more bird species in their neighborhood, they feel more strongly about the positive aspects of birds. If they believe there are more different types of birds in the neighborhood, they like birds better. On the flip side, it turns out that five birds were closely related to negative comments: House sparrows, Common grackles, blue jays, European starlings and American robins.
What do Chicago residents living adjacent to forest preserves think of the birds in their neighborhoods? Residents most valued their appearance and antics, bird songs and the fact that birds are part of the local ecosystem. No surprise, residents least valued bird droppings. Coming in at the second most annoying behavior is that birds may build nests in or on their house.
Birds are likable urban species; they can be a hub between residents, land management and ecosystem services policy. While age is the largest single driver of whether or not a homeowner feeds birds, how much residents do to help birds is tied to how they value them. Valuing birds was more important than socioeconomic factors. Residents that like birds tend to provide more resources for them, including vegetation/landscape complexity for habitat.
One way to sell eco-landscapes is to target customers who value birds and to help them strengthen the ties to their local bird population.
Urban residents’ perceptions of birds in the neighborhood: Biodiversity, cultural ecosystem services and disservices by J. Amy Belaire, Lynne M. Westphal, Christopher J. Whelan and Emily S. Minor in The Condor 117 (2):192-202 by Cooper Ornithological Society.
NewTerrain February 15, 2016.