Landscape Ecology

, Volume 25, Issue 6, pp 955–965 | Cite as

Movement behaviour of a forest songbird in an urbanized landscape: the relative importance of patch-level effects and body condition during migratory stopover

  • Stephen N. MatthewsEmail author
  • Paul G. Rodewald
Research Article


With expansion of urban areas worldwide, migrating songbirds increasingly encounter fragmented landscapes where habitat patches are embedded in an urban matrix, yet how migrating birds respond to urbanization is poorly understood. Our research evaluated the relative importance of patch-level effects and body condition to movement behaviour of songbirds during migratory stopover within an urban landscape. We experimentally relocated 91 migrant Swainson’s thrushes (Catharus ustulatus) fitted with 0.66 g radio-transmitters to seven forest patches that differed in area (0.7–38.4 ha) and degree of urbanization within central Ohio, USA, May 2004–2007. Fine-scale movement rate of thrushes (n = 55) did not differ among urban forest sites, but birds in low energetic condition moved at higher rates, indicating an energetically mediated influence on movement behaviour. In larger sites, Swainson’s thrushes (n = 59) had greater coarse-level movement during the first 3 days and utilized areas farther from forest edge, indicating stronger influence by patch-level factors. Thrushes exhibited strong site tenacity, with only five individuals (7%) leaving release patches prior to migratory departure. Movement outside the release patch only occurred at the smallest forest patches (0.7 and 4.5 ha), suggesting that these sites were too small to meet needs of some individuals. Swainson’s thrushes exhibited edge avoidance and apparent area sensitivity within urban forest patches during stopover, implying that conservation of larger patches within urban and other fragmented landscapes may benefit this species and other migrant forest birds.


Columbus, Ohio, USA Urban forests Avian migration Stopover behaviour Radio-telemetry Swainson’s thrush 



We are grateful to those who collected the data for this project; M. Labbe, S. Beaudreault, J. Fear, E. Dorsay, J. Cummings, J. Sauter, C. Stanton, J. Sullivan, and K. Kaminski. Comments from A. D. Rodewald and L. R. Iverson, and two anonymous reviews greatly improved the manuscript. We thank Columbus Recreation and Parks and E. Grody for permission to conduct research at Lazelle Woods, Woodward, and Rush Run parks. Columbus Metro Parks and J. O’Meara kindly gave permission to conduct research at Highbanks Metro Park. Funding was provided by the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program (W-134-P, Wildlife Management in Ohio), and administered jointly by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Ohio Division of Wildlife. Animal handling methods were approved by the Ohio State University Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC Permit # 2009A0034).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Terrestrial Wildlife Ecology Laboratory, School of Environment and Natural ResourcesThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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