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BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access December 2, 2019

Urban residency and leukocyte profiles in a traditionally migratory songbird

  • Daniel J. Becker EMAIL logo , Elizabeth M. Schultz , Jonathan W. Atwell and Ellen D. Ketterson
From the journal Animal Migration


Many animals are shifting migrations in response to human activities. In particular, human-induced changes to climate and habitat (e.g., urbanization) likely facilitate animals becoming year-round residents. Because migration can be energetically expensive, shifts to sedentary behavior could minimize energetic demands incurred and any immunosuppressive effects. Residency in urban habitats could also provide abundant resources and allow sedentary animals to invest more in immunity. However, urban habitats could also expose sedentary animals to novel stressors that counter such benefits. To examine how recent shifts to residency affects physiology in ways that may shape infectious disease dynamics, we analyzed leukocyte profiles of two dark-eyed junco (Junco hyemalis) populations from southern California: the Laguna Mountain population, in which birds breed in high-elevation forests and migrate altitudinally, and the urban University of California San Diego population, which was likely established by overwintering migrants in the 1980s and has since become non-migratory. Over a two-year study of each population’s breeding season, we found no difference in the ratios of heterophils to lymphocytes between populations. However, urban residents had more leukocytes than birds from the altitudinal migrant population. A multivariate analysis suggested urban residents had fewer monocytes, but effect sizes were small. These results suggest no differences in energy demands or stressors between urban resident and altitudinal migrant populations during their breeding season. However, urban residency may confer immunological benefits through anthropogenic resources, which could have important consequences for disease dynamics..


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Received: 2019-08-04
Accepted: 2019-10-21
Published Online: 2019-12-02

© 2019 Daniel J. Becker et al., published by De Gruyter Open

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Public License.

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