Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Senior Honors Thesis

Department or School


First Advisor

Kristi Judd

Second Advisor

Marianne Laporte


Urbanization creates novel problems for wildlife, potentially altering the foraging behavior of passerine birds. Foraging is driven by factors like food preference and food accessibility; the foraging of urban birds may be more innovative due to frequent exposure to unfamiliar items. I hypothesized that high novelty exposure in urban birds would promote faster discovery and longer visits to novel feeders compared to rural conspecifics. Additionally, I hypothesized that birds would prioritize food quality over access regardless of habitat, but when faced with barriers, urban birds would be better at accessing food compared to rural birds because of frequent exposure to novel obstacles. Recording bird visitations to paired bird feeders of differing food quality, I found that feeder discovery was not significantly different between the seed types or habitats. Rural birds spent half as much time at low access feeders compared to urban birds; when feeders were caged, rural birds discovered both seed types more quickly than the urban counterparts. Additionally, higher-quality food had greater consumption in both environments regardless of accessibility, although rural birds removed more low-quality food than urban birds when the more nutritional option was obstructed. This study reveals the importance of food preferences in driving avian feeding behaviors and how bird communities may be shaped by the food quality and degree of fragmentation of the habitat.

Included in

Biology Commons