Breeding birds on Montreal-area golf courses and green spaces



           Urbanization is one of the driving forces of habitat loss and fragmentation (1). Increasing urbanization leads to an increase in avian biomass and density coupled with a decrease in species richness (2).  While avian species diversity tends to increase with fragment area, this is not always the case, as diversity may decrease as the amount of development surrounding the fragment increases, regardless of area (3).  Thus, not all fragments are created equal, some supporting more diverse avian communities than others.   

           In an increasingly urbanized landscape, golf courses have the capacity to serve as important sanctuaries for wildlife. Considering that the average 18-hole course covers approximately 54 hectares, and that there are well over 31,500 golf courses worldwide, the potential for relatively undisturbed wildlife habitat is immense (4, 5).  While several studies have documented avian diversity on golf courses (6, 7, 8), none has examined the reproductive performance of birds at these sites.  This project examines sites in the Montreal area to determine if and how fragments in an urban landscape such as golf courses and green spaces support avian communities.  The overall objectives of the study are to: 1) assess urban fragments’ effectiveness in providing habitat for avian species and to relate this to land-use on and around each site; 2) examine the fragments’ effectiveness as breeding sites by quantifying reproductive performance; and 3) examine the effect of human disturbance on breeding birds.

             In 2003 and 2004, 443 nests of 16 species were located and monitored at four golf courses and two green spaces in the Montreal area.  Mayfield nest success (9) was calculated and various breeding parameters were evaluated for Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus).  Nest success, initiation date, clutch size, and number of young hatched and fledged were similar between sites and years, perhaps reflecting the adaptability of this species.  Future plans include GIS habitat analyses of all sites as well as nest survival models for American Robin (Turdus migratorius), Red-winged Blackbird, Grey Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis), and Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) using Program MARK (10, 11).  Models will examine the effects of general (year, site, nest age, temporal variation, and human disturbance) as well as species-specific variables on nest survival.


Literature Cited


1.                         Chace, J.F. and J.J. Walsh. 2005. Urban effects on native avifauna: a review. Landscape and Urban            Planning: In Press.

2.                         Beissinger, S.R. and D.R. Osborne. 1982. Effects of urbanization on avian community organization. Condor 84: 75-83.

3.                         Friesen, L.E., P.F.J. Eagles and R.J. MacKay. 1995. Effects of residential development on forest-dwelling neotropical migrant songbirds. Conservation Biology 9: 1408-1414.

4.                         Balogh, J. C., and W. J. Walker. 1992. Golf Course Management & Construction: Environmental Issues. Lewis Publishers, Boca Raton, USA.

5.                         Tanner, R. A. and A. C. Gange. 2004.  Effects of golf courses on local biodiversity. Landscape and Urban Planning: In press.

6.                         Moul, I. E., and J. E. Elliott. 1992. A survey of pesticide use and bird activity on selected golf courses in British Columbia. Technical Report Series No. 163. Canadian Wildlife Service, Pacific and Yukon Region, British Columbia. 89 pp.

7.                         Terman, M. R. 1997. Natural links: naturalistic golf courses as wildlife habitat. Landscape and Urban Planning 38: 183-197

8.                         Devine, B. E. 1999. The Golf Course as a Nature Reserve: An Evaluation of Land Use and Diversity Applied to Ecosystem Design. PhD. Thesis. Biological Sciences. University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island, USA. 252 pp.

9.                         Mayfield, H.F. 1975. Suggestions for calculating nest success. Wilson Bulletin 87: 456-466

10.                     White, G. C., and K. P. Burnham. 1999. Program MARK: survival estimation from populations of marked animals. Bird Study 46 (suppl.): S120-S139

11.                     Dinsmore, S. J., G. C. White, and F. L. Knopf. 2002. Advanced techniques for modeling avian nest survival. Ecology 83: 3476-3488


Marie-Anne Hudson



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