Smaller Australian raptors have greater urban tolerance

Taylor Headland, Diane Colombelli-Négrel, Corey T. Callaghan, Shane C. Sumasgutner, Sonia Kleindorfer, Petra Sumasgutner

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1 Citation (Scopus)
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Urbanisation is occurring around the world at a rapid rate and is generally associated with negative impacts on biodiversity at local, regional, and global scales. Examining the behavioural response profiles of wildlife to urbanisation helps differentiate between species that do or do not show adaptive responses to changing landscapes and hence are more or less likely to persist in such environments. Species-specific responses to urbanisation are poorly understood in the Southern Hemisphere compared to the Northern Hemisphere, where most of the published literature is focussed. This is also true for raptors, despite their high diversity and comparably high conservation concern in the Southern Hemisphere, and their critical role within ecosystems as bioindicators of environmental health. Here, we explore this knowledge gap using community science data sourced from eBird to investigate the urban tolerance of 24 Australian raptor species at a continental scale. We integrated eBird data with a global continuous measure of urbanisation, artificial light at night (ALAN), to derive an urban tolerance index, ranking species from positive to negative responses according to their tolerance of urban environments. We then gathered trait data from the published literature to assess whether certain traits (body mass, nest substrate, habitat type, feeding guild, and migratory status) were associated with urban tolerance. Body size was negatively associated with urban tolerance, as smaller raptors had greater urban tolerance than larger raptors. Out of the 24 species analysed, 13 species showed tolerance profiles for urban environments (positive response), and 11 species showed avoidance profiles for urban environments (negative response). The results of this study provide impetus to conserve native habitat and improve urban conditions for larger-bodied raptor species to conserve Australian raptor diversity in an increasingly urbanised world.

Original languageEnglish
Article number11559
Number of pages12
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jul 2023


  • Urbanisation
  • Raptors
  • Urban landscapes
  • Wildlife


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