SA birds fancy living in luxury, study finds

2019-06-01 10:18
African Olive Pigeon. (Dom Henry via UCT)

African Olive Pigeon. (Dom Henry via UCT)

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"Birds of a feather" flock together in affluent areas, probably due to greater investment in gardens, parks and other green spaces.

According to a study published in the Global Change Biology journal this week, wealthy areas in South Africa have a greater diversity of bird species, but only if they were not highly urbanised.

Hoping to get insight into the "fowl" living conditions across South Africa, a team of local and international scientists studied the occurrence of bird species in 22 urban areas around the country.

They found that the more affluent the neighbourhood, the more bird species there were - as long as there were still good enough habitats for the birds to spread their wings.

The team consisted of scientists from the universities of Turin, Italy, Cape Town and Witwatersrand (Wits).

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They analysed four years of data from the Southern African Bird Atlas Project across a range of urban environments, where the average income varied from $1 000 (around R14 700) to $30 000 (around R440 700), according to the South African census.

In a press statement, UCT said it was the first time that the "luxury effect" in birds had been documented in an African country.

"This study shows that rich, leafy suburbs have more bird species, and probably higher biodiversity in general, than poor areas of the city or areas that have too much asphalt and concrete.

"Understanding the factors which drive the 'luxury effect' will help us to design more biodiversity friendly cities in the future, thus promoting environmental justice for all urban inhabitants," said lead author Professor Dan Chamberlain of the University of Turin.

Arjun Amar, who is an associate professor at UCT, said: "This work is of particular importance because it is one of the few studies conducted in a developing country, and the only study of its kind in Africa, where urbanisation is predicted to occur at a faster rate than any other region on the planet."

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