Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 21, Issue 11, pp 2803–2821 | Cite as

Effects of habitat fragmentation and black-tailed prairie dogs on urban avian diversity

  • Seth B. Magle
  • Kristin A. Salamack
  • Kevin R. Crooks
  • Richard P. Reading
Original Paper


Urbanization and habitat fragmentation have the potential to influence bird communities. In addition, these phenomena, as well as ongoing lethal control measures, have also greatly reduced the range of the black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) since the beginning of the 20th century. Although prairie dogs are highly interactive species that can influence avian communities, few studies have investigated whether these interactions persist in urban settings. Our goal was to investigate the relative impacts of habitat fragmentation and prairie dogs on bird communities within an urban matrix. We performed bird surveys on 20 habitat fragments (10 colonized by prairie dogs, 10 uncolonized by prairie dogs) distributed throughout the Denver metropolitan area, and calculated Shannon–Weiner diversity and richness of all birds and native species, as well as total counts of grassland birds and raptors. Diversity, richness, and counts of many species increased with increasing fragment connectivity, and decreased on fragments isolated for longer periods of time. Avian diversity and richness did not differ between fragments with and without prairie dogs, suggesting that this element of the ecological role of prairie dogs is not fully retained in urban habitat. Future studies of the role of prairie dogs as keystone species in urban systems should include other taxa as well as consider the influence of the urban matrix surrounding prairie dog habitat. Our results emphasize that conservation of urban avian diversity should focus on landscape connectivity as well as local habitat features.


Black-tailed prairie dog Cynomys ludovicianus Fragmentation Grassland birds Interactive species Urban ecology 



We would like to thank the Denver Zoological Foundation for providing the funding to pursue this project. Two anonymous reviewers provided comments that improved the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Seth B. Magle
    • 1
  • Kristin A. Salamack
    • 2
  • Kevin R. Crooks
    • 3
  • Richard P. Reading
    • 4
  1. 1.Urban Wildlife Institute, Department of Conservation and ScienceLincoln Park ZooChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Wildlife Habitat CouncilDenverUSA
  3. 3.Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation BiologyColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  4. 4.Department of Conservation BiologyDenver Zoological FoundationDenverUSA

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