Pandemic-related containment has changed the behavior of some birds

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Pandemic-related confinement has changed the behavior of some birds

< p class="sc-v64krj-0 knjbxw">A house sparrow

The containment linked to the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced the way some birds exploit their environment, Manitoba researchers have found.

However, it is too early to say whether these changes have had a detrimental impact on some species, or whether the situation will return to what it was before the health crisis, said researcher Miya Warrington, an ecologist from the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg who is studying ;specifically interested in how animals adapt their behavior to rapid changes in their environment.

This research project began when Ms. Warrington found that the only places you could still go to during lockdown, such as some parks, were now taken over. onslaught by crowds who wouldn't have been there otherwise.

There was litter everywhere, said Ms Warrington, who was reached by The Canadian Press in the UK , where she resides, and whose email address includes canadianbirdlady. I told myself that it couldn't be good for the animals.

It was also at this time that information began to circulate in the media and photos of animals reclaiming places deserted by humans.

Ms Warrington and her colleagues combined mobility data provided by Google and nearly 900,000 bird sightings shared online to study the impact of the pandemic, and especially the lockdown, on how birds exploited their environment.

They found that some birds did not take advantage of constantly filled feeders because the presence of humans disturbed them and they preferred to feed out of sight prying eyes.

In the parks, by contrast, birds like seagulls and crows were more than happy to feast on visitors' scraps.

On the highways, less traffic led to fewer collisions with animals, and the birds that usually feed on these carcasses had to find their food elsewhere.

Birds move around and find the resource they need elsewhere, Warrington said. But there may be other species that aren't as flexible or can't move.

Intriguingly, some bird species responded differently to the lockdown, depending on whether populations were on this side of the Atlantic or the other. The researcher cites the example of the house sparrow, an invasive species in North America, which is on the other hand in decline in the United Kingdom.

The more there was [human] movement, the greater the impact on the sparrow was in the UK, she said. But we haven't seen any impact in North America. […] It tells me that different populations, under different conditions, have adapted to humans differently.

Yet, she continues, one would have thought that the sparrow would be more accustomed to being disturbed by humans in the UK, where the natural spaces available to it are much scarcer and more sparse than in North America.

The findings of This study was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

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