In addition to benefiting from control practices from Covid-19, lockdowns have also helped with changing bird habitats, according to a new study of the University of Manitoba. Fur paper, between March and May 2020, varied species of animals became more abundant in urban areas, where they were rarely seen under normal conditions.

According to Michael Schrimpf, a biologist and one of the authors of the study, the reduction in human traffic has caused densely populated urban areas to rapidly empty, making room for about 80% of bird species common to urban environments to change their habitats.


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Image shows a white-headed eagle, which benefited from lockdowns promoted in the US as well as birds in other countries.
Birds such as the white-headed eagle, which normally avoid humans, were seen more often in urban environments, thanks to lockdowns against Covid-19, seen in several countries (Image: Butler Stock Photography/Shutterstock)

According to the documentation, which compared the first quarter of the pandemic - where the restrictions were heavier – with the same period in 2019 and 2018, concluding that birds such as white-headed eagles were 17% more seen in cities where car traffic was reduced due to lockdowns. At the same time, red-necked hummingbirds were 10% more present in airports. Both cases mean that animals have expanded their habitats as a way to take advantage of man's absence.

“These are very, very significant changes,” said Nicola Koper, a biologist specializing in animal conservation at the university, and co-author of the study. "These are probably the strongest impacts I've ever seen."

In order to avoid statistical errors, the researchers' work was very detailed, especially with regard to eliminating possible biases and interferences. For example, the study completely discarded data coming from amateur observers, and also disregarded cases where birds were just more recognizable for their songs, as they didn't need to compete with car engines or city noises.

The study points out that migratory species benefited the most. This is because, with the absence of the human element in their vicinity, birds that make cycles of long journeys now have more “rest stops” – something important to them. 

There were also curious changes in behavior patterns in some cases: Jamaican miots (also known as “red-tail hawks”) were not often seen in nests near urban areas, but were often found near highways. With the lockdowns, the situation was reversed: birds built more nests in cities, and abandoned roads - probably because the no cars resulted in fewer accidents with dead animals and, consequently, less food for the hawks.

The study has yet to determine if these changes were triggered by noise reduction, fewer harmful interactions with humans (impacts against cars, glass windows and the like) or if there is a factor they still can't see. The authors promise to expand the research to find this out, as well as determine the impact of the return of the lockdowns on the benefited bird populations.

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