Urban green spaces a ‘lifeline’ for migrating birds

Migrating birds

Migratory birds are finding it increasingly difficult to find adequate food and shelter in urban areas

Study points to the importance of maintaining green spaces in high-density towns and cities as migrating birds look to stop for food

Even the smallest urban green spaces are helpful for migrating birds like thrushes, according to researchers at Ohio state university.

Migratory birds are finding it increasingly difficult to find adequate food and shelter in urban areas as they fly from their winter refuges towards summer breeding grounds.

However, an Ohio study tracking migrating birds making their way to the boreal forests of Canada found them stopping over for a number of days at small urban forest patches.

Stephen Matthews, from the school of Environment and Natural Resources at Ohio and co-author of the study said: ‘the good news is that the birds in our study [Swainson’s Thrush] seemed to be finding enough food in even the smaller urban habitats to refuel and continue their journey’.

‘The fact that the stopover duration was similar [between big and small sites] suggests that all the sites were meeting the needs of the thrushes as they prepared for the next leg of migration,’ he added.

Preserving woodland

The study authors said the findings showed the conservation value of preserving even small, fragmented woodland sites within urban areas.

An RSPB spokesperson agreed and said the study confirmed the importance of the few remaining green urban spaces as a ‘lifeline for any birds, especially for migratory birds such as swifts and swallows, which generally migrate on a broad front’.

The London Wildife Trust said while there was more pressure than ever on green spaces from development, there was was a ‘greater recognition of their importance’. It pointed out the recent pan-London schemes such as the Heritage Lottery funded Capital Woodlands, which is rejuvenating six flagship sites across London.

Useful links

Link to Ohio State University study

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