Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 499–515 | Cite as

Avian population dynamics and human induced change in an urban environment

  • Philip JamesEmail author
  • David Norman
  • Jeff J. Clarke


The predominantly urban boroughs of Warrington and Halton straddle the river Mersey in northwest England. Since the 1970s there has been a major change in land-use associated with both innovative town design and the decline of manufacturing and chemical industries in the boroughs. Also, co-ordinated programmes have directly addressed air and water pollution. The breeding birds of the two boroughs were surveyed in 1978–84 and 2004–06 as part of the bird atlases of Cheshire and Wirral, based on tetrads (2 × 2 km squares). We divided the breeding species into eight guilds based on broad ecological characteristics of habitat or food, omitting the generalists and colonial species, and compared the change between our two atlases in the number of occupied tetrads in Halton and Warrington and in the rest of the county. Four of our eight guilds have fared significantly better within our study area: waterbirds (24 species), those feeding on invertebrates (16 species), woodland specialists (21 species) and the two species that decorate their nests with lichens. The remaining four guilds showed no difference between Halton and Warrington and the rest of Cheshire and Wirral: raptors (5 species) have increased throughout, while breeding waders (7 species), farmland seedeaters (7 species) and aerial insectivores (5 species) have declined throughout. We interpret these results in relation to improved quality of water and air and changing patterns of land-use in the urban greenspace, especially an increase in woodland cover and connectivity.


Urban birds Greenspace Environmental quality Urban design 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Centre for Urban Change, School of Environment and Life SciencesUniversity of SalfordSalfordUK
  2. 2.Cheshire and Wirral Ornithological SocietyCheshireUK
  3. 3.Jeff Clarke EcologyWarringtonUK

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