Big Cities Can Be Birdy Areas Come Fall

By Pat Leonard
October 11, 2016
Left—Orchard Oriole by Evan Lipton/Macaulay Library; city image by Touch/ Adobe Stock; Graph adapted from zuckerberg, B. et al 2016Orchard Oriole by Evan Lipton/Macaulay Library; city image by Touch/ Adobe Stock; graph adapted from Zuckerberg, B. et al. (2016).

From the Autumn 2016 issue of Living Bird magazine. Subscribe now.

Neotropical migrants—such as Wood Thrush, Orchard Oriole, and American Redstart—don’t avoid big cities on their southbound journeys in autumn. In fact, they’re highly likely to pop up in a dense urban area during fall migration.

Using eBird data, Cornell Lab of Ornithology information science researcher Daniel Fink produced statistical models that show a group of 20 Neotropical migrant species have a surprisingly high positive correlation with occurrence in urbanized land covers between September and November.

These same species appear to avoid urban areas in the breeding season.

Fink points out that these migratory birds are likely utilizing green spaces, parks, and tree-lined streets as stopover habitat.

“What really resonates for me are the conservation implications,” Fink says of his model. “Clearly our big cities are not throwaway areas for migratory bird habitat.”


Zuckerberg, B., D. Fink, F.A. La Sorte, W.M. Hochachka, and S. Kelling. 2016. Novel seasonal land cover associations for eastern North American forest birds identified through dynamic species distribution modelling. Diversity and Distributions 22: 717–730. doi:10.1111/ddi.12428

Cornell Lab of Ornithology

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