Urbanization and elevated cholesterol in American Crows

Andrea K. Townsend, Hannah A. Staab, Christopher M. Barker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Although urban areas can be sources of abundant food for wildlife, anthropogenic foods may be lower in quality than natural food sources, with possible consequences for birds. We examined how urbanization and anthropogenic food were linked to cholesterol levels, condition, and survival of American Crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos). We collected cholesterol and landscape data from 140 crow nestlings along an urban-to-rural gradient in Davis, California, USA. We also ran a supplementation experiment with high-cholesterol fast food (McDonald's cheeseburgers) on 86 nestlings in a rural population in Clinton, New York, USA. Plasma cholesterol increased with percentage of impervious surface along the urban-to-rural gradient. Cholesterol levels were sensitive to anthropogenic foods: Crows supplemented with fast food cheeseburgers had higher cholesterol levels than unsupplemented crows. Elevated cholesterol levels had no detectable effects on survival and were associated with higher indices of body condition, although urbanization itself was linked to lower survival. Elevated cholesterol levels could indicate access to high-calorie, high-fat anthropogenic foods, which might, in some contexts, improve body condition, potentially offsetting other negative effects of urbanization. Observations over a longer time scale, assessing additional indices of health and fitness, are needed to evaluate long-term costs or benefits of elevated cholesterol for urban crows.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCondor
Volume121
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

Fingerprint

Corvus brachyrhynchos
urbanization
cholesterol
food
crows
fast foods
body condition
nestling
rural population
natural foods
fat
urban areas
fitness
urban area
wildlife
bird
timescale
plasma

Keywords

  • Cholesterol
  • Corvus brachyrhynchos
  • Diet
  • Ecological trap
  • Evolutionary trap
  • Health
  • Nutrition
  • Survival
  • Urbanization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology

Cite this

Urbanization and elevated cholesterol in American Crows. / Townsend, Andrea K.; Staab, Hannah A.; Barker, Christopher M.

In: Condor, Vol. 121, No. 3, 01.01.2019.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Townsend, Andrea K. ; Staab, Hannah A. ; Barker, Christopher M. / Urbanization and elevated cholesterol in American Crows. In: Condor. 2019 ; Vol. 121, No. 3.
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