Suburban sprawl drives songbirds apart

Pacific wren
The Pacific wren is an “avoider” bird species. (UW Photo / John Marzluff)Bir

Researchers at the University of Washington report that suburban development is forcing lovebirds in the Seattle area to split up and miss their best chance to raise a family.

We’re not just talking figuratively here: These are real birds – specifically, a category of songbirds called “avoiders” that tend to form monogamous relationships.

Such birds include the Pacific wren and Swainson’s thrush in the Pacific Northwest. They’re generally shy of humans, and rely on groundcover and brush for breeding locales.

A team of UW researchers led by wildlife biologist John Marzluff tracked the movements and mating patterns of six common bird species at 26 forested sites east of Seattle over the course of a decade, from 2000 to 2010. Some of the sites experienced rapid development during that time frame.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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