Urban remnant vegetation, especially where it occurs in public parks, allows for relatively easy access for ongoing biodiversity monitoring. However, relatively little baseline information on bird species distribution and abundance across a range of identifiable urban remnants appears in the published literature. We surveyed the relative abundance and distribution of birds across urban and suburban remnant vegetation in Melbourne, Australia. One hundred and six species were recorded, of which 98 were indigenous. Red wattlebirds had the highest mean relative abundance with 2.94 birds/ha, followed by rainbow lorikeets (2.51), noisy miners (1.93), brown thornbills (1.75) and spotted doves (0.96). There was no obvious trend between overall relative abundance and the size of the remnant, in contrast to species richness which was positively correlated with remnant size. The data revealed that some species were either totally restricted to, or more abundant in, larger remnants and generally absent from smaller remnants. Some of the more common birds (crimson rosella, superb fairy-wren, spotted pardalote and black-faced cuckoo-shrike) recorded during this study were detected at similar densities to those found in comparable vegetation to the east of Melbourne within a largely forested landscape. Other species occurred at much lower densities (e.g., white-browed scrubwren, brown thornbill, eastern yellow robin and grey fantail) or had habitat requirements or ecological characteristics that could place them at risk of further decline or local extinction in the urban area. We identify a suite of bird species of potential conservation concern within Melbourne's urban landscape. The establishment of repeatable, fixed-point, and long-term monitoring sites will allow for repeat surveying over time and provide an early warning of population declines, or conversely an indication of population increase for other species.
Urban expansion is a principal process threatening biodiversity globally. It is predicted that over half of the world's population will reside in urban centres by 2010. If we are to conserve biodiversity, a shift in perspective from traditional ecological studies based in natural environments, to studies based in less natural environments is paramount. To effectively conserve species which occur in urban environments, comprehensive analysis is necessary to determine the processes that are driving this urban usage. Geographical Information Systems (GIS) technology provides a valuable tool for efficient spatial analysis and predictive mapping of species distributions. This study used GIS to analyze current breeding sites for the powerful owl, a vulnerable top order predator in urban Melbourne, Australia. GIS analysis suggests that a number of ecological attributes were influencing powerful owl usage of urban environments. Using these ecological attributes, predictive mapping was undertaken, which identified a number of potential breeding sites for powerful owls within urbanized Melbourne. Urban environments are traditionally perceived as “the wastelands” of natural environments, however, this study demonstrates that they have the potential to support apex predators, an important finding for the management of rare and threatened species.