City-Dwelling Owl Not Bothered by Urban Hustle and Bustle, Study Finds

posted: 09/17/15
by: Discovery.com Staff
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Despite a growing body of research suggesting that human development is negatively impacting certain species of wildlife, biologists have found that the burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia) is surprisingly well-adjusted to an urban lifestyle.

In a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports, Spanish and Argentinian researchers studied levels of corticosterone, "a key hormone in stress response," in burrowing owls found throughout the Buenos Aires metropolitan area.

Burrowing owl in Buenos Aires
Natalia Rebolo

Predictably, higher levels of stress hormones are linked to higher mortality rates, while normal levels encourage the birds' alertness and motor capabilities.

"Despite the fact that the urban and rural individuals differed in the exposure they have to disturbances and the comfort distance from people, we did not find any differences in the levels of the stress hormone," Pablo de Olavide University researcher Maria Carrete explains in a news release.

Carrete posits that, after several decades of adjusting to city living, urban burrowing owls do not perceive human activity as dangerous.

Previous research has called out high levels of light and sound pollution, human disturbances and the introduction of new predators as potentially being harmful to wildlife in urban settings.


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