Prey abundance and urbanization influence the establishment of avian predators in a metropolitan landscape
Urbanization causes the simplification of natural habitats, resulting in animal communities dominated by exotic species with few top predators. In recent years, however, many predators such as hawks, and in the US coyotes and cougars, have become increasingly common in urban environments. Hawks in the Accipiter genus, especially, are recovering from widespread population declines and are increasingly common in urbanizing landscapes. Our goal was to identify factors that determine the occupancy, colonization, and persistence of Accipiter hawks in a major metropolitan area. Through a novel combination of citizen science and advanced remote sensing, we quantified how urban features facilitate the dynamics and long-term establishment of Accipiter hawks. Based on data from Project FeederWatch, we quantified 21 years (1996-2016) of changes in the spatio-temporal dynamics of Accipiter hawks in Chicago, Illinois. Using a multi-season occupancy model, we estimated Cooper’s (Accipiter cooperii) and Sharp-shinned (A. striatus) Hawk occupancy dynamics as a function of tree canopy cover, impervious surface cover, and prey availability. In the late 1990s, hawks occupied 26% of sites around Chicago, but after two decades, their occupancy fluctuated close to 67% of sites, and they colonized increasingly urbanized areas. Once established, hawks persisted in areas with high levels of impervious surfaces as long as those areas supported high abundances of prey birds. Urban areas represent increasingly habitable environments for recovering predators, and understanding the precise urban features that drive colonization and persistence is important for wildlife conservation in an urbanizing world.
This article was written by Jennifer D. McCabe, He Yin, Jennyffer Cruz, Volker Radeloff, Anna Pidgeon, David N. Bonter, and Benjamin Zuckerberg and appears in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The Royal Society is in the United Kingdom and is possibly the oldest science society still in existence. Proceedings B publishes biological research and is one of two journals published by the society.