No, it's Not Your Imagination – Birds in the City Really are Meaner

By Annalee Newitz on at

Out in the countryside, birds are always singing happily. But in the city, they squawk and fly into your face. Now scientists say there’s actually a reason why city birds can behave so aggressively — and no, it’s not the same reason why urban humans can be so terrible.

In a recent study published in the journal Behavioral Ecology, a group of researchers describe the differences in song sparrow behaviour they observed in rural and urban areas. The urban sparrows sang in a much more aggressive way than their country cousins, and the researchers at first assumed it was due to overcrowding. After all, human aggression in cities is often attributed to cramped quarters.

But it turned out that crowding had nothing to do with it. After some experimentation, the researchers found that the birds were actually more aggressive because cities provide them with more food than the countryside. And when sparrows live in food-rich territories, they guard it more aggressively. So basically, the more crumbs you feed to birds in the park, the more likely it is that you’ll create a birdpocalypse of epic proportions. [via Science News; read the full scientific study in Behavioral Ecology]