As the global human population climbs towards 7.5 million, the landscape becomes increasingly urbanized, which affects wildlife worldwide. To examine the effects of urbanization, we characterized bird diversity across a suburban university campus. The SUNY New Paltz campus is located in rural Ulster County, NY, but it is only 75 miles north of New York City. The campus is adjacent to the village of New Paltz and consists of 257 acres including different levels of urbanization. We installed a network of 16 bird feeders, with 4 feeders located in the following urbanization categories: 1. Residential areas near the dormitories, 2. Central campus among the large academic buildings, 3. Turf playing fields, and 4. Forest fragments along the edges of the campus. We sampled the birds at each feeder using 26 weekly 10-minute observations throughout 2016, and 3-hour mist-netting and banding sessions at each feeder on two dates from May-July 2016. We then used Aerial photographs and GPS ground-truthing to create maps of land cover types covering 10 and 50m radius circles around each feeder using ArcGIS. We expected to find lower diversity and higher numbers of invasive species at urbanized central feeders, and more diversity at forest edge feeders.
Bird species richness, diversity, and the abundance of invasive species varied across urbanization categories. Feeder observations yielded the highest species richness data, and mean species richness was significantly higher at Forest Edge (14.25 species) and Residential (12.25 species) than at Central (8.25 species) and Turf (6.75 species) feeders. Shannon’s diversity indices revealed that with richness and evenness accounted for, Residential feeders exhibited the highest diversity, followed by Forest Edge feeders, and that both were significantly higher than Central and Turf feeders. Banding data gives accurate abundances, and highlights the dominance of invasive house sparrows at Central feeders accounting for 69.8% of birds banded there. A preliminary analysis of GIS land cover variables indicates that the area of forest in both 10m and 50m circles is correlated with species diversity. We conclude that subjectively categorized urbanization categories and land cover at the small scales that we measured are both good indicators of how urbanization affects bird communities at bird feeders. We hope that further analysis of our GIS data will allow us to make recommendations for landscaping changes to increase in bird diversity on our campus and across suburbia.