Living in the City: Resource Availability, Predation, and Bird Population Dynamics in Urban Areas

J Theor Biol. 2007 Jul 7;247(1):36-49. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2007.01.030. Epub 2007 Feb 20.


This article explores factors that shape population structure in novel environments that have received scant theoretical attention: cities. Urban bird populations exhibit higher densities and lower diversity. Some work suggests this may result from lower predation pressure and more predictable and abundant resources. These factors may lead to populations with few winners and many losers regarding access to food, body condition, and reproductive success. We explore these hypotheses with an individual-energy-based competition model with two phenotypes of differing foraging ability. We show that low frequency resource fluctuations favor strong competitors and vice versa. We show that low predation skews equilibrium populations in favor of weak competitors and vice versa. Increasing the time between resource pulses can thus shift population structure from weak to strong competitor dominance. Given recent evidence for more constant resource input and lower predation in urban areas, the model helps understand observed urban bird population structure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Birds / growth & development*
  • Birth Rate
  • Cities*
  • Ecosystem
  • Models, Biological*
  • Mortality
  • Population Dynamics
  • Predatory Behavior*