Project Findings

Bird Point Counts

Research Methodology

We used satellite imagery to select 80 greenspaces distributed throughout Champaign-Urbana. Forty of these ‘public’ greenspaces were publicly accessible spaces such as parks, woods, and other natural areas, while another 40 were ‘private’ greenspaces, located in private residential neighborhoods or other areas such as golf courses and country clubs. The number of points per greenspace varied based on greenspace size, with one point for areas less than 50 hectares in size, two points for areas 50-150 hectares in size, with one point for areas >150 hectares in size. Overall, we sampled birds at 93 total points in winter (January-February) and summer (June-July) 2022. In each season, we visited every point five times and conducted a 10-minute point count, resulting in 465 point counts per season and 930 total!

Preliminary Results

We registered 4,670 detections of 61 bird species during the winter point counts (Fig. 1) and 8,741 detections of 91 bird species during the summer point counts (Fig. 2) for a total of 115 species across both seasons (37 species were recorded in both seasons).

Figure 1. Frequency histogram of bird species (n = 61) detected in the Champaign-Urbana metropolitan area in winter (January-February) 2022.
Figure 2. Frequency histogram of bird species (n = 91) detected in the Champaign-Urbana metropolitan area in summer (June-July) 2022.

We documented substantial variation in bird diversity across the greenspaces of Champaign-Urbana. In the winter, species richness ranged from 7-26 species, and the top 10 most species-rich points were a mix of public (n=7) and private (n=3) greenspaces, all located in Urbana (Fig. 3, which will be provided soon). In the summer, species richness ranged from 16-50 species, and eight of the top 10 most species-rich locations were in Urbana, seven of which were public greenspaces (Fig. 4, which will be provided soon).

Figure 3. Species richness for each of the 80 greenspaces (40 public [black], 40 private [white]) sampled in winter 2022 in Champaign (squares) and Urbana (circles).
Figure 4. Species richness for each of the 80 greenspaces (40 public [black], 40 private [white]) sampled in summer 2022 in Champaign (squares) and Urbana (circles).

In summary, we found that:

  1. In winter, bird species richness did not differ between public and private greenspaces.
  2. In summer, public greenspaces supported significantly more diverse bird communities than private greenspaces.
  3. Urbana supported significantly more diverse bird communities than Champaign across seasons.
  4. Larger greenspaces supported more diverse bird communities.

Mist Netting Research

Research Methodology

*more information will be provided at a later date

Preliminary Results

We found that the bird program had positive effects on participating children’s knowledge about birds, feelings of connection to birds and nature, and environmental values. Comparing average scores before and after program participation, children’s bird knowledge measured by questions about defining characteristics of a bird, bird species they knew, and how to help protect birds increased from 6.81 points to 7.81 points (15 points maximum). Connection to birds, measured by question about preferences, for bird-related lifestyle, increased from 3.83 to 4.05 on a 5-point scale. Connection to nature, measured by how close the self is to nature, increased from 4.87 to 5.00 on a 7-point scale. Environmental values, measured by questions about the importance of the environment, increased from 4.33 to 4.43 on a 5-point scale. These prelminary results suggest that a bird program that provides hands-on experiences can help children develop their knowledge as well as psychological connections with birds and nature.

Focus Groups

Research Methodology

In February 2022, we held three focus groups with residents from Champaign-Urbana (n=12). Each focus group lasted for 90-minutes and was held online using Zoom software. Adult residents in the study area were recruited through the distribution of flyers, word-of-mouth, and social media. All discussion were facilitated by two trained members of the research team. To engage the study participants, the researchers initiated conversation with a series of introductions, followed by residents describing their relationships to local birds, the benefits of birds, and current threats to birds. Residents were also tasked with completing a free-listing activity to identify salient bird species and the associated traits that made them memorable.

Preliminary Results

In our winter focus groups, residents discussed range of functional traits that they appreciated within the local bird population. The most commonly mentioned functional traits including being close to residents’ homes (utilizing bird houses and feeders), plumage (bright and pretty colors) and birdsong (beautiful to listen to and fun to call back). Common species included associated with these traits included Northern Cardinals and Blue Jays. Foraging mode was also frequently discussed as a point of interest, including raptors (e.g., Red-tailed Hawk), insectivores (e.g., Downy Woodpeckers), seedeaters (e.g., American Goldfinch) and waterbirds (e.g., Great Blue Heron). Other behaviors that were commonly mentioned related to flying, migration, social interactions between species, and perceived personality (i.e., curious, sassy, calm). Lastly, residents found that they were drawn to larger birds.

In our focus groups residents also discussed a few negative outcomes resulting from local bird populations. The most commonly mentioned drawback of birds stemmed from sanitary concerns and the inconvenience of having to clean up bird waste. The Canada Goose was specifically mentioned when discussing this negative functional trait; however there was a general sentiment that bird waste was negative regardless of the species. House Sparrows and Common Grackles were also considered to be nuisance species when they often overrun bird feeders and scare away other birds that residents want to see feeding. Other negative feelings mentioned by residents stemmed from aggression, impacts of overpopulation, and invasive species.