Landscape Ecology

, 24:281 | Cite as

Multi-scale use of lands providing anthropogenic resources by American Crows in an urbanizing landscape

  • John C. WitheyEmail author
  • John M. Marzluff
Research Article


The conversion of forests and farmlands to human settlements has negative impacts on many native species, but also provides resources that some species are able to exploit. American Crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos), one such exploiter, create concern due to their impact as nest predators, disease hosts, and cultural harbingers of evil. We used various measures of crow abundance and resource use to determine crows’ response to features of anthropogenic landscapes in the Puget Sound region of the United States. We examined land cover and land use composition at three spatial scales: study sites (up to 208 ha), crow home ranges within sites (18.1 ha), and local land cover (400 m2). At the study site and within-site scales crow abundance was strongly correlated with land cover providing anthropogenic resources. In particular, crows were associated with the amount of ‘maintained forest’ cover, and were more likely to use grass and shrub cover than forest or bare soil cover. Although crows did not show a generalized response to an edge variable, they exhibited greater use of patchy habitat created by human settlements than of native forests. Radio-tagged territorial adults used resources within their home ranges relatively evenly, suggesting resource selection had occurred at a larger spatial scale. The land conversion pattern of new suburban and exurban settlements creates the mix of impervious surfaces and maintained vegetation that crows use, and in our study area crow populations are expected to continue to increase.


Resource use Utilization distribution Urban ecology Spatial autocorrelation Habitat selection American Crow Corvus brachyrhynchos Washington State 



JW was supported during this study by a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship. The research was funded by The National Science Foundation (DEB-9875041, IGERT-0114351, BCS-0120024 and BCS-0508002). R Seguine, J Mencher, L Pascoe, and E West contributed their field work and data entry. J Hepinstall assisted with analyses in ArcGIS and obtained land cover classifications and high-resolution orthophotos. P Hurvitz added the focal zone count to FOCAL PATCH and helped troubleshoot in ArcView. M Handcock wrote and advised us on using the RUF function in R. Three reviewers and the Landscape Ecology editors provided important comments and revisions that improved the manuscript. We also want to acknowledge the support of the late Bob Reineke as an Urban Ecology colleague, fellow corvid researcher, and friend.

Supplementary material

10980_2008_9305_MOESM1_ESM.doc (30 kb)
MOESM1 (DOC 30 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Forest ResourcesUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyLewis and Clark CollegePortlandUSA

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