M.S., Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation
Suburbanization as a possible mechanism for range expansion in the red-bellied woodpecker
Suburbanization and the changes in natural areas surrounding urban centers have allowed some wildlife populations to thrive. Red-bellied woodpeckers are one such species. They favor the mix of wooded and semi-wooded habitat that often results from suburban development. Over the last forty years, the red-bellied woodpecker has expanded the northern limit of its eastern range from Maryland into central New York and southern New England and continues to move northward. Christmas Bird Counts and Breeding Bird Surveys have documented this range expansion, and a pilot study using data from Pennsylvania and Massachusetts showed a higher rate of expansion into suburban areas than into rural settings. I propose a more thorough examination using data sets from Maryland up through New England to analyze the timing and intensity of the northward expansion, and using ArcGIS to map and analyze the habitat characteristics, land use, and degree of urbanization at each location. The analysis should shed light on what is driving the expansion of the red-bellied woodpecker. While many studies look at the detrimental effects of urbanization on wildlife, few are aimed at understanding the wildlife preferences that could help refine development planning and land management regulations to promote healthy, diverse populations.
Last updated October 17, 2011 by Roxann Cormier