Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 205–221 | Cite as

Bird species of conservation concern along urban gradients in Italy

  • Alberto SoraceEmail author
  • Marco Gustin
Original Paper


The worldwide increase of urbanization requires better knowledge of its effects on biodiversity. We investigated the distribution of 41 breeding bird species of conservation concern along an urban gradient (centre, inner periphery, outer periphery, sparsely built up area) in Italian towns. We used data on the presence of bird species of conservation concern in each square of the grid of 27 urban atlases to obtain the frequency of each species in each sector. The frequency of species of conservation concern—for both passerines and non passerines—decreased in more urbanised sectors. An increased degree of urbanization is particularly unfavourable to the following groups of species of conservation concern: raptors (except Falco tinnunculus); galliforms; granivorous, ground-nesting passerines; and passerines of bush-shrub habitats. Our findings did not change substantially if we limited our analysis to small, intermediate or large towns. Our results confirm that urban areas are avoided by the majority of specialists and rare species. However, the frequency of aerial feeders and Jynx torquilla, Phoenicurus phoenicurus, Monticola solitarius and Muscicapa striata did not decrease in more urbanised sectors. Since these species include some whose main habitats are dwindling, urban areas might be a refuge for them. Conservation efforts in towns should preserve the conditions (presence of mature trees, habitat heterogeneity, availability of insects, suitable nesting sites in buildings) favouring these species.


Urbanization Avian species Conservation Biological atlases Town size Italy 



We thank all people that collected data on urban atlases in particular we are indebted to S. Gellini, A. Nardo, S. Nissardi, A. Falci, M. Mastrorilli, B. Cignini, A. Meschini, and M. Zapparoli who gave us the unpublished data of some urban atlases. E. Borgo, L. Galli, L. Bordignon, A. Nardo gave useful information on the atlases that they cared. We thank two anonymous reviewers for their useful suggestions.


  1. Alberti M, Botsford E, Cohen A (2001) Quantifying the urban gradient: linking urban planning and ecology. In: Marzluff JM, Bowman R, Donnelly R (eds) Avian ecology and conservation in an urbanizing world. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Boston, pp 68–85Google Scholar
  2. Allen AP, O’Conner RJ (2000) Hierarchical correlates of bird assemblage structure on northeastern USA lakes. Environ Monit Assess 62:15–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Araújo MB (2003) The coincidence of people and biodiversity in Europe. Global Ecol Biogeogr 12:5–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Ballerio G, Brichetti P (2003) Atlante degli uccelli nidificanti nella città di Brescia 1994–1998. Natura Bresciana, Ann Mus Civ Sci Nat 33:133–167Google Scholar
  5. Balmford A, Moore JL, Brooks T et al (2001a) People and biodiversity in Europe—response. Science 293:1591–1592CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Balmford A, Moore JL, Brooks T et al (2001b) Conservation conflicts across Africa. Science 291:2616–2619CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Batten LA (1973) Population dynamics of suburban Blackbirds. Bird Study 20:251–258CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Battisti C, Gippoliti S (2004) Conservation in the urban-countryside interface: a cautionary note from Italy. Conserv Biol 18:581–583CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bernini F, Dinetti M, Gariboldi A et al (1998) Atlante degli uccelli nidificanti a Pavia. Comune di Pavia – LIPU, ParmaGoogle Scholar
  10. Biagioni M, Coppo S, Dinetti M et al (1996) La conservazione della biodiversità nel Comune di La Spezia. Comune di La Spezia, La SpeziaGoogle Scholar
  11. BirdLife International (2004) Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status. BirdLife International. (BirdLife Conservation Series No.12), CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  12. Blair RB (2001) Creating a homogeneous avifauna. In: Marzluff JM, Bowman R, Donnelly R (eds) Avian ecology and conservation in an urbanizing world. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Boston, pp 459–486Google Scholar
  13. Bolger DT (2001) Urban birds: population, community, and landscape approaches. In: Marzluff JM, Bowman R, Donnelly R (eds) Avian ecology and conservation in an urbanizing world. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Boston, pp 155–177Google Scholar
  14. Bordignon L (1997) Atlante degli uccelli nidificanti a Cossato. Anni 1989/1995. Quaderni di Educazione Ambientale. Centro di Educazione Ambientale Città di Cossato. Tipografia Robino Bruno and C., CossatoGoogle Scholar
  15. Bordignon L (1999) Gli uccelli della città di Biella. Comune di Biella, Assessorato all’Ambiente, BiellaGoogle Scholar
  16. Borgo E, Galli L, Galoppo C et al (eds) (2005) Atlante ornitologico della città di Genova. Bollettino dei Musei e degli Istituti biologici delle Università di Genova, GenovaGoogle Scholar
  17. Bux M, Giglio G, Gustin M (2008) Nest box provision for lesser kestrel Falco naumanni populations in the Apulia region of southern Italy. Conserv Evidence 5: 58–61.Google Scholar
  18. Cade TJ, Bird DM (1990) Peregrine Falcons (Falco perigrinus) nesting in an urban environment: a review. Can Field Nat 104:209–218Google Scholar
  19. Cannon A (1999) Opinion. The significance of private gardens for bird conservation. Bird Conserv Int 9:287–297CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Cecere JG, Sorace A, De Sanctis E (2005) Distribuzione dello Storno Sturnus vulgaris come nidificante nella città di Roma. Alula 12:85–87Google Scholar
  21. Chace JF, Walsh JJ (2006) Urban effects on native avifauna: a review. Landsc Urban Plan 74:46–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Cignini B, Zapparoli M (eds) (1996) Atlante degli uccelli nidificanti a Roma. Fratelli Palombi Editori, RomaGoogle Scholar
  23. Clergeau P, Savard JL, Mennechez G et al (1998) Bird abundance and diversity along an urban–rural gradient. A comparative study between two cities on different continents. Condor 100:413–425CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Clergeau P, Jokimäki J, Savard JL (2001) Are urban bird communities influenced by the bird diversity of adjacent landscapes? J Appl Ecol 38:1122–1134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Clergeau P, Croci S, Jokimäki J et al (2006) Avifauna homogenisation by urbanisation: analysis at different European latitudes. Biol Conserv 127:336–344CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Cramp S (1988) The birds of the Western Palearctic, vol V. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  27. Cramp S (1992) The birds of the Western Palearctic, vol VI. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  28. Cramp S, Perrins C (eds) (1993) The birds of the Western Palearctic, vol VII. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  29. Cramp S, Perrins C (eds) (1994) The birds of the Western Palearctic, vol VIII–IX. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  30. Daniels GD, Kirkpatrick JB (2006) Does variation in garden characteristics influence the conservation of birds in suburbia? Biol Conserv 133:326–335CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Demartini L, Sorace A, Cecere J et al (2006) Atlante degli Uccelli di Ostia. Comune di Roma - Centro Habitat Mediterraneo, RomaGoogle Scholar
  32. Dinetti M (1994) Atlante degli uccelli nidificanti a Livorno. Quaderni dell’ambiente, n. 5, Comune di Livorno e Coop. ARDEA, LivornoGoogle Scholar
  33. Dinetti M, Romano S (2002) Atlante degli uccelli nidificanti nel Comune di Firenze. Comune di Firenze, FirenzeGoogle Scholar
  34. Dinetti M, Cignini B, Fraissinet M et al (1994) Gruppo di lavoro ‘Atlanti ornitologici urbani italiani’: standard per le ricerche sull’Avifauna di ambienti urbanizzati’. Riv ital Orn 64:141–149Google Scholar
  35. Donald PF (2004) The skylark. Poyser, LondonGoogle Scholar
  36. Donald PF, Green RE, Heath MF (2001) Agricultural intensification and the collapse of Europe’s farmland bird populations. Proc R Soc Lond B 268:25–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Emlen JT (1974) An urban bird community in Tucson, Arizona: derivation, structure, regulation. Condor 76:184–197CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Ewers RM, Didham RK (2006) Confounding factors in detection of species responses to habitat fragmentation. Biol Rev 81:117–142CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Fernández-Juricic E, Jokimäki J (2001) A habitat island approach to conserving birds in urban landscapes: case studies form southern and northern Europe. Biodivers Conserv 10:2023–2043CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Fowler J, Cohen L (1995) Statistics for ornithologists. BTO Guide 22, British Trust for Ornithology, TringGoogle Scholar
  41. Fraissinet M (1995) Atlante degli uccelli nidificanti e svernanti nella città di Napoli. Monografia n. 4 dell’Associazione Studi Ornitologici Italia meridionale. Electa Napoli, NapoliGoogle Scholar
  42. Giovacchini P (2002) Atlante degli uccelli nidificanti a Grosseto. Supplemento al n. 17 degli Atti del Museo di Storia Naturale della Maremma, GrossetoGoogle Scholar
  43. Gregory RD, Baillie SR (1998) Large-scale habitat of some declining British birds. J Appl Ecol 35:785–799Google Scholar
  44. Groppali R (1994) Gli uccelli nidificanti e svernanti nella città di Cremona (1990–1993). Azienda Energetica Municipalizzata e Museo Civico di storia Naturale, CremonaGoogle Scholar
  45. Gustin M (2002) Atlante degli uccelli nidificanti a Reggio Emilia. Comune di Reggio Emilia, Reggio EmiliaGoogle Scholar
  46. Henle K, Davies KF, Kleyer M, Margules C, Settele J (2004) Predictors of species sensitivity to fragmentation. Biodivers Conserv 13:207–251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Heywood VH (1996) The importance of urban environment in maintaining biodiversity. In: Di Castri F, Younés T (eds) Biodiversity, science and development: towards a new partnership. CAB International, Wallingford, pp 566–575Google Scholar
  48. Hostetler M (2001) The importance of multi-scale analyses in avian habitat selection studies in urban environments. In: Marzluff JM, Bowman R, Donnelly R (eds) Avian ecology and conservation in an urbanizing world. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Boston, pp 140–154Google Scholar
  49. Jerzak L (2001) Synurbanization of the magpie in the Palearctic. In: Marzluff JM, Bowman R, Donnelly R (eds) Avian ecology and conservation in an urbanizing world. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Boston, pp 403–425Google Scholar
  50. Jokimäki J (1999) Occurrence of breeding bird species in urban parks: effects of park structure and broad-scale variables. Urban Ecosyst 3:21–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Jokimäki J, Kaisanlahti-Jokimäki M-L (2003) Spatial similarity of urban bird communities: a multiscale approach. J Biogeogr 30:1183–1193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Jokimäki J, Kaisanlahti-Jokimäki M-L, Sorace A et al (2005) Evaluation of the “safe nesting zone” hypothesis across an urban gradient: a multi-scale study. Ecography 28:59–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Kirby W, Black K, Pratt S et al (2005) Territory and nest-site habitat associations of Spotted Flicatchers Muscicapa striata breeding in central England. Ibis 147:420–424CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Lim HC, Sodhi NS (2004) Responses of avian guilds to urbanisation in a tropical city. Landsc Urban Plan 66:199–215CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. LIPU (1998) Atlante degli uccelli nidificanti nel comune di Trento. Natura Alpina 48:1–207Google Scholar
  56. Luniak M (1981) The birds of the park habitats in Warsaw. Acta Ornithol 18:335–370Google Scholar
  57. Luniak M (1990) Urban ecological studies in Central and Eastern Europe. Polish Academy of Sciences, Wroclaw, PolandGoogle Scholar
  58. Luniak M (1996) Synurbization of animals as a factor increasing diversity of urban fauna. In: Di Castri F, Younés T (eds) Biodiversity, science and development: towards a new partnership. CAB International, Wallingford, pp 566–575Google Scholar
  59. Maffei G, Pulcher C, Rolando A et al (2001) L’avifauna della città di Torino: analisi ecologica e faunistica. Monografie XXXI. Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali, TorinoGoogle Scholar
  60. Marzluff JM (2001) Worlwide urbanization and its effects on birds. In: Marzluff JM, Bowman R, Donnelly R (eds) Avian ecology and conservation in an urbanizing world. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Boston, pp 19–48Google Scholar
  61. Marzluff JM, Bowman R, Donelly R (eds) (2001) Avian ecology and conservation in an urbanizing world. Kluwer Academic Publishers, BostonGoogle Scholar
  62. Mason CF (2000) Thrushes now largely restricted to the built environment in eastern England. Divers Distrib 6:189–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. McGeoch MA, Chown SL (1997) Impact of urbanization on a gall-inhabiting Lepidoptera assemblage: the importance of reserves in urban areas. Biodivers Conserv 6:979–993CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. McKinney ML (2002) Urbanization, biodiversity, and conservation. Bioscience 52:883–890CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. McKinney ML (2006) Urbanization as a major cause of biotic homogenization. Biol Conserv 127:247–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Meschini E, Frugis S (1993) Atlante degli uccelli nidificanti in Italia. Suppl Ric Biol Selvaggina 20:1–344Google Scholar
  67. Miller JR (2005) Biodiversity conservation and the extinction of experience. Trends Ecol Evol 20:430–434CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  68. Miller JR, Fraterrigo J, Hobbs NT (2001) Urbanization, avian communities, and landscape ecology. In: Marzluff JM, Bowman R, Donnelly R et al (eds) Avian ecology and conservation in an urbanizing world. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Boston, pp 117–137Google Scholar
  69. Mörtberg UM (2001) Resident bird species in urban forest remnants; landscape and habitat perspectives. Landscape Ecol 16:193–203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Mörtberg UM, Wallentinus H-G (2000) Red-list forest bird species in an urban environment—assessment of green space corridors. Landsc Urban Plan 50:215–226CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Nardo A (2003) Atlante degli Uccelli nidificanti e svernati a San Donà di Piave. Comune di San Donà di Piave - LIPU, San Donà di PiaveGoogle Scholar
  72. Newton I (1979) Population ecology of raptors. T& A. D. Poyser Ltd., BerkhamstedGoogle Scholar
  73. Newton I (2004) The recent declines of farmland bird populations in Britain: an appraisal of causal factors and conservation actions. Ibis 146:579–600CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Nova M (2002) Da Moltoni al 2000: le conoscenze sugli uccelli nidificanti a Milano. Riv ital Orn 72:127–149Google Scholar
  75. Osborne P, Osborne L (1980) The contribution of nest site characteristics to breeding-success among Blackbirds Turdus merula. Ibis 122:512–517CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Palomino D, Carrascal LM (2006) Urban influence on birds at a regional scale: a case study with the avifauna of northern Madrid province. Landsc Urban Plan 77:276–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Palumbo G (1997) Il Grillaio. Altrimedia Edizioni, MateraGoogle Scholar
  78. Peterjohn BG (2003) Agricultural landscapes: can they support healthy bird populations as well as farm products? Auk 120:14–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Phillips RL, McEneaney TP, Beske AE (1984) Population densities of golden eagles in Wyoming. Wildl Soc Bull 12:269–273Google Scholar
  80. Robinson RA, Sutherland WJ (2002) Changes in arable farming and biodiversity in Great Britain. J Appl Ecol 39:157–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Solonen T (2008) Larger broods in the Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis near urban areas in southern Finland. Ornis Fennica 85:118–125Google Scholar
  82. Sorace A (2001) Value to wildlife of urban-agricultural parks: a case study from Rome urban area. Environ Manage 28:547–560CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  83. Sorace A, Gustin M (2008) Homogenisation processes and local effects on avifaunal composition in Italian towns. Acta Oecologica 33:15–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Sorace A, Gustin M (2009) Distribution of generalist and specialist predators along urban gradients. Landsc Urban Plan 90:111–118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Stastny K, Bejek V (eds) (1990) Bird census and atlas studies. In: Proceedings XI international conference on bird census and atlas work, Prague, pp 181–185Google Scholar
  86. Stival E (1990) Avifauna e ambienti naturali del comune di Marcon (Ve). Club Marcon, MarconGoogle Scholar
  87. Tomiałojć L (1994) Wryneck Jinx torquilla. In: Tucker GM, Heath MF (eds) Birds in Europe: their conservation status. Birdlife International (Birdlife Conservation Series no. 3), CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  88. Tucker GM, Evans MI (1997) Habitats for birds in Europe: a conservation strategy for the wider environments. BirdLife International (Birdlfe Conservation series no. 6), CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  89. Turner WR, Nakamura T, Dinetti M (2004) Global urbanization and the separation of humans from nature. Bioscience 54:585–590CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. United Nations Population Division (2004) World urbanization prospects. U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  91. Vickery PD, Hunter ML Jr, Melvin SM (1994) Effects of habitat area on the distribution of grassland birds in Maine. Conserv Biol 8:1087–1097CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Vickery PD, Tubaro PL, Cardosa Da Silva JM et al (1999) Conservation of grassland birds in the western Hemisphere. Stud Avian Biol 19:2–26Google Scholar
  93. Vickery JA, Bradbury RA, Henderson IG (2004) The role of agri-environment schemes and farm management practices in reversing the decline of farmland birds in England. Biol Conserv 119:19–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Walcott CF (1974) Changes in bird life in Cambridge, Massachusetts from 1860 to 1964. Auk 91:151–160Google Scholar
  95. Warner RE (1994) Agricultural land use and grassland habitat in Illinois: future shock for Midwestern birds? Conserv Biol 8:147–156CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento Ambiente e Connessa Prevenzione PrimariaNational Institute of HealthRomeItaly
  2. 2.Dipartimento ConservazioneLIPUParmaItaly
  3. 3.SROPURomeItaly

Personalised recommendations