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    Landscape -scale predictors of persistence of an urban stock dove Columba oenas population

    Richardson, James, Lees, Alexander C and Marsden, Stuart (2022) Landscape -scale predictors of persistence of an urban stock dove Columba oenas population. Urban Ecosystems. ISSN 1083-8155

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    Abstract

    While a few species may thrive in urban areas, urban expansion is a major driver of biodiversity loss. Columbids such as feral Rock Doves (Columba livia domestica) and Common Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus) have adapted extremely well to the urban environment in Europe and beyond, but the Stock Dove (Columba oenas), a bird of farmland and woodland edge in the UK and of national conservation concern, is encountered infrequently in urban areas. Here we explore the multi-scale landscape associations of the little-studied Stock Dove within the urban matrix of Greater Manchester, UK, in order to identify its habitat requirements. We built a pilot model from historical citizen science records to identify potentially occupied sites within the city, and then surveyed these sites for Stock Dove during Spring 2019. We combined the survey results with citizen science records from the same period and described the habitat and landscape characteristics of sites occupied by Stock Dove using four variables at different scales plus twelve unscaled variables. We used a three-stage random forest approach to identify a subset of these variables for interpretation and a subset for prediction for the presence of Stock Dove within these sites. Key variables for predicting Stock Dove presence were their relative abundance in the landscape immediately beyond the core urban area, the greenness (NDVI) of the environment around sites, and the canopy cover of individual trees over 20 m high within sites. Stock Doves tended to be associated with habitats with more surface water during the non-breeding season than the breeding season. Our results highlight the importance of large trees within urban greenspace for this cavity-nesting species, softer boundaries around urban sites for Stock Doves and stock dove presence in nearby areas. While Stock Dove share many traits with species that are successful in the urban environment, they remain relatively poor urban adapters.

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