Baltimore Birdscape Study: Identifying Habitat and Land-Cover Variables for an Urban Bird-Monitoring Project

by Charles H. Nilon1, Paige S. Warren2, and Jordan Wolf3

1 Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences, 302 Anheuser-Busch Natural Resources Building, University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia, MO 65211

2 Department of Natural Resources Conservation, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA 01003

3 Flushing International High School, 144-80 Barclay Avenue, Flushing, NY 11355


As the first step in developing a long-term citywide bird-monitoring project in Baltimore, we sought to identify how bird species composition and abundance might be related to vegetation variables and land-use/land-cover variables that are being collected to assess neighborhood change in Baltimore. In May through June 2002 we counted birds at 46 randomly located census points in Baltimore. We collected data for 15 vegetation variables along a 100-meter transect located on streets containing the bird census points. We measured seven land-use/land-cover variables in a 200-meter-radius circle centered on each census point. We used principal component analysis to identify vegetation and land-use/land-cover variables that explained differences among bird census points. We used canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) to help us understand the relationship between urban bird communities and vegetation and land-use/land-cover variables and to identify bird species that might be useful indicators of changes in urban neighborhoods. Our study recorded one-third of the bird species that occur in the region during the breeding and summer seasons. We identified a subset of bird species whose abundance values are correlated with vegetation and land-use variables and may be useful in long-term monitoring projects where the objective is to relate bird species abundance and presence to measures of how urban neighborhoods change.

Keywords: birdscape, urban, monitoring, neighborhoods, conservation, Baltimore Ecosystem Study