How birds adapt to
urban life is a key question in evolutionary and conservation biology since
urbanisation is one of the major causes of habitat loss worldwide. Some species
are able to deal with these anthropogenic changes but a shortage of nesting
sites may preclude them from breeding in cities. We conducted a baseline survey
of the cliff-nesting burrowing parrot Cyanoliseus
patagonus around Bahía Blanca (Argentina), estimating a minimum total of
1,361 pairs breeding at 24 sites (colonies) in 2013. The species showed
facultative colonial behaviour, colony size varying between 1 and 300 pairs.
Most colonies (68%) and pairs (74%) occupied human-made substrates, mostly
quarries but also water wells. Colony size was strongly correlated to the
extent of both natural and anthropogenic nesting substrates, suggesting an
ideal free distribution of pairs according to the availability of nesting
resources. Anthropogenic substrates have certainly allowed population expansion
in what is a rather flat landscape with a shortage of cliffs and ravines, as
well as urban breeding by a large part (61%) of the surveyed population. This
is currently one of the largest populations of burrowing parrots, a previously
abundant species that is progressively threatened by persecution and nest
poaching for the international pet trade.
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