Environmental Management

, Volume 50, Issue 1, pp 11–20 | Cite as

Natural History Traits Associated with Detecting Mortality Within Residential Bird Communities: Can Citizen Science Provide Insights?

  • Caren Beth CooperEmail author
  • Kerrie Anne Therese Loyd
  • Tessa Murante
  • Matthew Savoca
  • Janis Dickinson


Cat predation of birds in residential landscapes is ephemeral, unpredictable, and spatially dispersed, and thus requires many person-hours to observe. We sought to identify whether specific behaviors, traits, or feeding ecologies of birds contribute to their probability of cat-caused mortality around residences across temperate North America. In addressing this question, we evaluated citizen science data with respect to peer-reviewed species accounts (Birds of North America, BNA). Using information on cat predation from the BNA, we found that species that glean their prey from the ground or breed in nest boxes were three times more likely to be depredated by cats, while birds that hawk were over two times less likely to become cat prey than would be predicted by random chance. Data from citizen science sources also showed that birds using nest boxes had increased susceptibility to cat predation, as did those that use feeders and that glean from foliage. We caution that observations of predation by citizen science volunteers may be biased towards detection at feeders. Future research should focus on developing volunteer survey techniques for improving estimates of bird mortality rates and sources.


Domestic cat Predator-prey interactions Urbanization Birdfeeders “My Yard Counts” “PredatorWatch” 



We are thankful to all those who took part in My Yard Counts and PredatorWatch. We appreciate input from Chris Wood on the natural history Table. Staff in Bird Population Studies and Citizen Science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology gave valuable input throughout the course of this research. Tessa Murante reported these findings as part of her Honors Thesis at Cornell University.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Caren Beth Cooper
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kerrie Anne Therese Loyd
    • 2
  • Tessa Murante
    • 3
  • Matthew Savoca
    • 4
  • Janis Dickinson
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of OrnithologyCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  2. 2.Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  3. 3.New York College of Osteopathic Medicine, New York Institute of TechnologyOld Westbury, New YorkUSA
  4. 4.Graduate Group in EcologyUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA

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