Uptown Birds

Something about the surrounding neighborhood influences the birds' choices

12-01-2002 // Mark Cheater

IT'S NOT JUST rich people that prefer to live in tony neighborhoods--it's birds, too. More species of birds are found in wealthy urban areas than in lower-income neighborhoods, scientists in Arizona report.

In a study of 15 small parks throughout Phoenix, researchers found that an average of 28 kinds of birds were found in parks in upscale neighborhoods, compared to 23 in middle-income parks and 18 in poor areas.

"We can't explain bird diversity in the parks by the size of the parks, or the types or sizes of trees in the parks," says Ann Kinzig, a biologist at Arizona State University. Instead, it appears to be something about the surrounding neighborhood that influences the birds' choices.

"It could be what people are planting, it could be differences in how often you feed the birds, it could be something as small as the feral and domestic cats and other predators that live in the neighborhoods," says Kinzig. "We don't know, but it's something about the differences in people's lifestyles."

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