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Bird Health in California’s Central Coast: Interactions Between Agricultural Land Use and Avian Life History

  • Author(s): Glynn, Victoria Marie
  • et al.
Abstract

The Central Coast of California has implemented bare-ground buffers to deter the presence of food-borne pathogens in produce. The destruction of natural habitats surrounding farms may place avian communities at risk. To ascertain bird health in this rapidly-changing landscape, we sampled passerine and near passerine birds on organic strawberry farms in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties. The ratio of two white blood cell types, heterophils and lymphocytes (H:L ratio), served as a proxy for bird health. Mixed-effects models revealed that song sparrow health slightly increased on farms with high proportions of agriculture (p = 0.08). High levels of reproductive readiness were also linked to improved song sparrow health (p = 0.007). The study’s findings suggest that foraging and habitat resources created by agriculturalists, as well as fledging survivorship may be impacting bird health in the Central Coast. There is a need to re-evaluate human-wildlife relationships as agricultural spaces may be safeguarding avian communities.

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