, Volume 175, Issue 3, pp 1019–1027 | Cite as

Loss of migration and urbanization in birds: a case study of the blackbird (Turdus merula)

  • Anders Pape Møller
  • Jukka Jokimäki
  • Piotr Skorka
  • Piotr Tryjanowski
Global change ecology - Original research


Many organisms have invaded urban habitats, although the underlying factors initially promoting urbanization remain poorly understood. Partial migration may facilitate urbanization because such populations benefit from surplus food in urban environments during winter, and hence enjoy reduced fitness costs of migratory deaths. We tested this hypothesis in the European blackbird Turdus merula, which has been urbanized since the 19th century, by compiling information on timing of urbanization, migratory status, and population density for 99 cities across the continent. Timing of urbanization was spatially auto-correlated at scales up to 600 km. Analyses of timing of urbanization revealed that urbanization occurred earlier in partially migratory and resident populations than in migratory populations of blackbirds. Independently, this effect was most pronounced in the range of the distribution that currently has the highest population density, suggesting that urbanization facilitated population growth. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that timing of urbanization is facilitated by partial migration, resulting in subsequent residency and population growth.


European blackbird Migration Residency Spatial autocorrelation Urbanization 



B. Chapman and T. Laaksonen provided constructive criticism. Numerous ornithologists answered our emails about information on the timing of urbanization. We would particularly like to thank Prof. S. Ulfstrand for his never-tiring efforts to find more data.

Supplementary material

442_2014_2953_MOESM1_ESM.doc (252 kb)
Summary information on year of urbanization of the European blackbird for different cities, including information on population density, migration status (0 - resident, 1 - partial migrant, 2 - migrant), latitude, longitude and source. The table also contains information on auto-regressive terms for year of urbanization, log population density and migration status (DOC 252 kb).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anders Pape Møller
    • 1
  • Jukka Jokimäki
    • 2
  • Piotr Skorka
    • 3
  • Piotr Tryjanowski
    • 3
  1. 1.Laboratoire d’Ecologie, Systématique et EvolutionCNRS UMR 8079, Université Paris-SudOrsay CedexFrance
  2. 2.Nature Inventory and EIA-services, Arctic Centre, University of LaplandRovaniemiFinland
  3. 3.Institute of ZoologyPoznan University of Life SciencesPoznanPoland

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