Songbirds Rest and Refuel in Urban Trees

By Canopy Team on May 16, 2016

songbird refuel in urban trees

Patches of urban trees help migratory songbirds in their journey

The trees in our yards and along our streets are home to many birds, insects, and animals, but they are are also vital resting and refueling sites for migratory birds.

Every spring and fall, dozens of songbirds make the journey north or south to forage or find nesting habitat.  Along the way, these birds find rest and food in our urban trees to complete their journey.

How do songsbirds respond to urbanization?

Ecologists Stephen Matthews and Paul Rhodewald from Cornell University wanted to know how migratory songbirds are coping with urbanization and increasingly fragmented landscapes. In their Landscape Ecologist article on “Movement behavior of a forest songbird in an urbanized landscape,” the team reveals results from a four-year study of 100 Swainson Thrush birds as they migrated over seven small urban forests.

A recent BBC article describes how the scientists attached micro-tags to track where the birds went along their migration. The scientists were able to determine the key role of urban tree cover by identifying the specific areas where birds stopped to find food.

“We started to see the importance of these smaller forest patches,” explained Dr. Matthews, “It seemed that the birds were able to utilize these small forest patches during their stopover.”

Conserving urban forests for migrant songbirds is key

These findings show, according to Dr. Matthews, the “conservation importance of urban habitats for stopover migrants.”  

Professor Rodewald offered that these findings “suggest that remnant forests within urban areas have conservation value for migrant land birds. Obviously, larger forest patches are better, but even smaller ones are worth saving.”

Be a part of the conservation effort

Join Canopy at any of our tree planting or tree care events to contribute to the growth and maintenance of the urban forest. Contact Uriel Hernandez at [email protected] for more information or visit our online calendar for upcoming volunteer events. 

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