Rapid behavioural response of urban birds to COVID-19 lockdown
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Biodiversity is threatened by the growth of urban areas. However, it is still poorly understood how animals can cope with and adapt to these rapid and dramatic transformations of natural environments. The COVID-19 pandemic provides us with a unique opportunity to unveil the mechanisms involved in this process. Lockdown measures imposed in most countries are causing an unprecedented reduction of human activities, giving us an experimental setting to assess the effects of our lifestyle on biodiversity. We studied the birds' response to the population lockdown by using more than 126 000 bird records collected by a citizen science project in northeastern Spain. We compared the occurrence and detectability of birds during the spring 2020 lockdown with baseline data from previous years in the same urban areas and dates. We found that birds did not increase their probability of occurrence in urban areas during the lockdown, refuting the hypothesis that nature has recovered its space in human-emptied urban areas. However, we found an increase in bird detectability, especially during early morning, suggesting a rapid change in the birds’ daily routines in response to quieter and less crowded cities. Therefore, urban birds show high behavioural plasticity to rapidly adjust to novel environmental conditions, such as those imposed by the COVID-19.
Is part ofProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2021, vol. 288, núm. 1946, p. 20202513
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