Evolutionary consequences of bird feeding

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Bird feeding, that is intentional feeding through the provision of food to free-living birds, is undoubtedly the public's most common form of active engagement with nature in urbanised areas in Europe. For instance, in the UK, more than 60% of households regularly feed birds. Given the scale of supplementary feeding and its growing popularity, any effect of this practice may have important implications for bird ecology and urban ecosystems in general. Amongst others, bird feeding, by altering bird diet and food resource distribution in time and space is likely to shape selective pressures and gene flow within urbanised landscapes. Through this project, I aim to shed light on evolutionary changes resulting from bird feeding and to disentangle the evolutionary mechanisms underlying such modifications. More specifically, I am trying to answer two core questions:

1) How does bird feeding shape genetic connectivity within the urban mosaic?

2) Is bird feeding responsible for divergent selection within the urban mosaic?

To answer these questions, I am studying great tits (Parus major) and blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) within the urban mosaic of Innsbruck.

This project is funded by the Elise Richter grant V 953-B from the FWF – Austria.   

  

AAE members involved in the bird feeding project:

Marion Chatelain (PI), Michael Traugott (collaborator)

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