Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 369–377 | Cite as

Large-scale commonness is the best predictor of bird species presence in European cities

  • Michal Ferenc
  • Ondřej Sedláček
  • Roman Fuchs
  • David Hořák
  • Lenka Storchová
  • Maurizio Fraissinet
  • David Storch


Urban bird communities are homogenized across large spatial scales, suggesting that the urban environment acts as an environmental filter. We hypothesize that large scale commonness is a better predictor of urban affinity of birds than any particular species trait. We estimated the relative importance of taxonomy, reproductive, ecological and morphological traits, and commonness of individual bird species. We compiled data on i) breeding bird communities of 41 European cities from urban bird atlases, and ii) regional bird assemblages defined by nine grid cells of the Atlas of European Breeding Bird around each city, and quantified the urban affinity of each species by comparing its incidence in cities and in randomly drawn communities from respective regional assemblages. Conditional inference tree-based random forest analysis was utilized to assess the importance of individual predictors. A sign test was used to detect differences between congeneric pairs of species with contrasting affinity to cities. Birds associated with woody habitats and those having altricial chicks had higher affinity for cities. Of the other reproductive traits, only clutch size showed an association with urban affinity. Different bird orders differed significantly in their urban affinity, exemplifying the homogenizing effect of cities. However, by far the most important factor associated with bird tolerance to the urban environment was species commonness, indicating that either the traits associated with commonness, or population effects driven by commonness, are responsible for their presence in cities.


European birds urban affinity traits range size population size 



We would like to thank all ornithologists and birdwatchers who participated in data collection for 41 urban bird atlases in Europe. We also wish to thank Martina Komínová for digitalizing a substantial part of the data. We are grateful to Vojtěch Jarošík who provided some invaluable advice and wished to collaborate on this article, but sadly, was not granted the time to do so. David Hardekopf improved the English of the paper. We are grateful to anonymous reviewers for their comments that helped to improve the manuscript substantially.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11252_2017_709_MOESM1_ESM.docx (492 kb)
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology, Faculty of ScienceCharles UniversityPrague 2Czech Republic
  2. 2.Department of Zoology, Faculty of ScienceCharles UniversityPrague 2Czech Republic
  3. 3.Department of Zoology, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of South BohemiaČeské BudějoviceCzech Republic
  4. 4.Università degli Studi di Napoli “Federico II”Dipartimento di Agraria, ASOIM onlusPorticiItaly
  5. 5.Center for Theoretical StudyCharles University in Prague and Academy of Sciences of the Czech RepublicPraha 1Czech Republic

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