Breeding bird communities across an upland disturbance gradient in the western Lake Superior region

Christina Miller, Gerald J Niemi, Joann M. Hanowski, Ronald R. Regal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Upland breeding bird communities were sampled from 225 points in 15 survey routes in the coastal region of western Lake Superior to examine relationships to human land use. Eighty-four species were detected and 50 were abundant enough to be included in data analysis. Monotonic quadratic regression models were constructed for these 50 species by using species counts as the dependent variable and the proportion of human conversion of the landscape (residential, agriculture, and commercial/industrial land uses) within each study area as the independent variable. Twenty-seven bird species had significant regressions (P < 0.05), 18 of which generally avoided areas developed by humans and 9 of which were attracted to development. Detrended correspondence analysis using counts of these 27 bird species was used to investigate multivariate, community responses to development. The first DCA axis was interpreted as a gradient from urban avoiding to urban exploiting bird species and was strongly correlated with land cover variables related to human development. Our results advance the idea that breeding bird communities can be used as indicators of ecological condition and can diagnose potential causes for changes in these conditions. Further, our study points out the usefulness of bird monitoring data in regional planning efforts that incorporate goals for maintaining native biological diversity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)305-318
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Great Lakes Research
Issue numberSPEC. ISS. 3
StatePublished - 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Tom Hollenhorst for his help on the GIS portions of this project and Nick Danz for his helpful insights. Funding for data collection was supported by a grant from the U.S. EPA’s Science to Achieve Results Estuarine and Great Lakes program through funding to the Great Lakes Environmental Indicators project (U.S. EPA Agreement EPA/R-828675). Although the research described in this article has been funded by the U.S. EPA, it has not been subjected to the agency’s required peer and policy review and therefore does not necessarily reflect the views of the agency and no official endorsement should be inferred. This is contribution number 469 of the Center for Water and the Environment, Natural Resources Research Institute, University of Minnesota Duluth.


  • Agriculture
  • Birds
  • Coastal
  • Disturbance
  • Gradient
  • Great Lakes
  • Urbanization

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