Plastic and the nest entanglement of urban and agricultural crows

Andrea K. Townsend, Chris Barker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Much attention has been paid to the impacts of plastics and other debris on marine organisms, but the effects of plastic on terrestrial organisms have been largely ignored. Detrimental effects of terrestrial plastic could be most pronounced in intensively human-modified landscapes (e.g., urban and agricultural areas), which are a source of much anthropogenic debris. Here, we examine the occurrence, types, landscape associations, and consequences of anthropogenic nest material in the American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos), a North American species that breeds in both urban and agricultural landscapes. We monitored 195 nestlings in 106 nests across an urban and agricultural gradient in the Sacramento Valley, California, USA. We found that 85.2% of crow nests contained anthropogenic material, and 11 of 195 nestlings (5.6%) were entangled in their nests. The length of the material was greater in nests in agricultural territories than in urban territories, and the odds of entanglement increased 7.55 times for each meter of anthropogenic material in the nest. Fledging success was significantly lower for entangled than for unentangled nestlings. In all environments, particularly urban, agricultural, and marine, careful disposal of potential hazards (string, packing and hay bale twine, balloon ribbon, wire, fishing line) could reduce the occurrence of entanglement of nestling birds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere88006
JournalPLoS One
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 31 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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