Spatial Patterns of Bird Abundance in New Orleans After Hurricane Katrina
A comprehensive understanding of natural disasters requires understanding their environmental consequences. I examined the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the urban birds of New Orleans, USA. I counted resident land birds on a network of transects established after Katrina's August 2005 landfall. One hundred of these were randomly located and surveyed ten to fourteen weeks after the storm, and 150 more in five focal neighborhoods were surveyed from November 2005 through the fourth winter. Bird numbers on the 100 transects were lower on transects with higher Katrina wind speeds but not on those that flooded by more than 3 ft. The five focal neighborhoods maintained similar bird numbers relative to each other over the duration of the study. Bird numbers in the neighborhood impacted by the Murphy Oil spill were low but not lower than in some areas not contaminated by oil. Reproduction did not appear to be reduced in the oil spill relative to other neighborhoods. Creation of open land by removal of houses appeared to have little effect on bird numbers. However, another 2 km2 area of the city that was converted to open land and seldom mowed attracted a notable concentration of birds of prey in 2009. Focal neighborhoods farther west and therefore exposed to weaker winds tended to have more birds, possibly because of both reduced direct storm impacts and proximity to relatively high populations that could supply immigrants. Neighborhoods closer to nonflooded sources of immigrants in some cases had more birds, as did individual transects within one neighborhood.
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