Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp 955–960 | Cite as

On the lookout for danger: House Sparrow alert distance in three cities

  • Ian MacGregor-Fors
  • Javier Quesada
  • Jeffrey G.-H. Lee
  • Pamela J. YehEmail author


The House Sparrow Passer domesticus, closely associated with human presence along urban–agricultural landscapes and widely distributed outside its native range, has shown great morphological and physiological variations, with its plasticity linked to its invasiveness. Yet, there is a dearth of knowledge on the escape behavior of this sparrow along its North American invasion range. We here assessed House Sparrows alert distances in Los Angeles and Mexico City, but also in Barcelona as a control within its native distribution, considering ‘city’, ‘sex/age’ (adult males vs. adult females and juveniles), and ‘flock size’ as alert distance predictors. Through a linear model and a classification and regression tree, we identified that House Sparrow alert distances in Barcelona were significantly larger when compared to both studied North American cities (Los Angeles, Mexico City). Given that alert distances were also significantly larger in Los Angeles when contrasted with those from Mexico City, where it has been recently shown to be hyper-abundant, our results also suggest that its boldness could be related not only to an origin (native/non-native) driver, but also to a density-dependent process.


Barcelona Flushing distance Los Angeles Mexico City Passer domesticus Urban ecology 



We are deeply thankful to the anonymous reviewers and Michelle García-Arroyo for their comments and suggestions that enhanced the quality and clarity of our manuscript, as well as Luis E. Sánchez-Ramos for his help with fieldwork in Mexico City, and Roger Guevara for his assistance with statistical procedures. Research funds were granted by UC MEXUS-CONACYT to P.J.Y. and I.M.-F. (CN-13-587), National Geographic Society to P.J.Y. and I.M.-F., the Natural Sciences Museum of Barcelona and Fundació Zoo de Barcelona to J. Q. (PASSERCAT-1 project), the UC Natural Reserve System to J.G.-H.L. (Mildred E. Mathias Graduate Student Research Grant Program), and the Santa Monica Bay Audubon Society to J.G.-H.L. (Small Grants for Field Study Projects).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Red de Ambiente y SustentabilidadInstituto de Ecología, A.C. (INECOL)XalapaMexico
  2. 2.Department of VertebratesNatural Sciences Museum of BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  4. 4.Santa Fe InstituteSanta FeUSA

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