Fear in urban landscapes: Conspecific flock size drives escape decisions in tropical birds

Melissa Ardila-Villamizar, Gustavo Alarcón-Nieto, Adriana A. Maldonado-Chaparro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Human-induced disturbances affect animal behaviours such as anti-predatory responses. Animals in urban environments tend to exhibit a reduced escape response, measured as a shorter flight initiation distance (FID), compared to their rural counterparts. While FID has been evaluated in animals dwelling in contrasting habitats (e.g. urban versus rural), little is known about how this response varies within urban environments, especially in tropical cities. Here, we studied the FID of 15 resident bird species in Bogota, Colombia, at 22 sites grouped into four categories (natural sites, metropolitan parks, zonal parks and residential areas) that differed in landscape features and evaluated which factors affected the escape responses of birds. We showed that birds foraging in larger flocks are more tolerant when being approached but they do not seem to be influenced by other factors such as heterospecific flock size, noise levels, pedestrian density, predator density, natural cover or body length. Also, birds inhabiting residential areas and parks showed a shorter FID compared to birds in natural areas suggesting that they are more tolerant of human-related disturbances compared to their conspecifics that live in natural areas within the city. Our study shows important differences in bird anti-predatory responses within the city and suggests that social strategies (i.e. flocking patterns) may be a mechanism for adapting to human-induced disturbances in urban tropical environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number221344
Pages (from-to)221344
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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