how birds adapt to their environment

Between 14,500 to 10,500 years ago, during the transition from the last Ice Age, early humans in the wetlands of eastern Jordan inadvertently created conditions that encouraged birds to stay rather than migrate.

This revelation challenges the notion that human influence on the environment is inherently negative. Instead, it illustrates how human interaction with ecosystems can promote biodiversity by enabling different species to thrive together.

Traditionally, human impact on natural habitats has been viewed through a lens of destruction and biodiversity loss. However, this research presents a different narrative.

“The ecosystem in question is the Shubayqa wetlands of eastern Jordan that is now only seasonally flooded,” said Yeomans. “But recent evidence has shown that water was likely available through much of the year, and therefore it was also possible for waterfowl and other species to exist there all year round if they had a suitable habitat.”

The research at Shubayqa revealed that the Epipaleolithic and Neolithic peoples’ engagement with the wetlands, through harvesting vegetation and utilizing waterfowl resources, created a year-round habitat for these birds.

“The presence of eggshells and bones of juvenile ducks and swans in the archaeological record indicates that these birds did indeed remain year-round to breed in the wetlands instead of returning to Europe,” said Yeomans.

“We know that the modern descendants of these birds can stay and breed in the region, but only if the environment is suitable for them, and we think that human management of the wetland vegetation did provide suitable ecological niches for them through harvest of the vegetation.”

This period marks a pivotal point in human history, with communities on the verge of transitioning to agriculture. The study suggests that modifications to environments like those seen in the Shubayqa wetlands could have been a critical factor in the development of agricultural practices.

“We know that agriculture developed in this region not long after these cultures, and we suggest that intentional management of wetlands was an important stage in this process,” said study co-author Camilla Mazzucato, an anthropologist at the University of Copenhagen.

“The effort taken to alter the wetlands paid off in that it afforded improved foraging opportunities in terms of waterfowl, eggs, and feathers.”

The research underscores the importance of recognizing the role humans and other species play in shaping their environments. This collaborative shaping of habitats, the researchers argue, was instrumental in sparking innovations that eventually led to the advent of agriculture.

The study not only expands our understanding of early human-environment interactions but also invites a reevaluation of the impact of human activity on biodiversity. Under certain conditions, humans and nature can coexist in a way that benefits both.

Birds have a remarkable ability to adapt to the pressure of human activities and urban environments in various ways. Many species have adjusted their feeding habits, nesting locations, and even their song patterns in response to the changes brought about by human expansion and urbanization.

One of the most visible adaptations is in their feeding habits. Birds such as pigeons, sparrows, and gulls have become adept at scavenging food from waste generated by humans. They often congregate in urban areas where food waste is abundant.

Some species have even learned to recognize and use traffic patterns to their advantage. For example, crows have been observed dropping nuts on roads for cars to crack open. They wait for traffic to stop before retrieving the food.

Nesting behaviors have also evolved in response to urban environments. Birds like peregrine falcons, traditionally cliff nesters, have taken to high-rise buildings as suitable substitutes for cliffs. They build nests on ledges and under bridges.

Similarly, house sparrows and starlings often nest in roof spaces and building crevices, taking advantage of the shelter provided by human structures.

Moreover, birds have adapted their communication methods in urban environments. Many bird species, such as the European robin and the blackbird, have altered their song patterns in cities.

These changes include singing at higher pitches, at louder volumes, or during quieter periods of the day, such as nighttime, to avoid the noise pollution that can drown out their calls during the day.

Furthermore, some birds have developed a tolerance or even an attraction to human presence. Urban parks and gardens often play host to a variety of bird species that have become accustomed to humans and may even approach them for food. This demonstrates a significant shift in behavior compared to their more cautious rural counterparts.

Like what you read? Subscribe to our newsletter for engaging articles, exclusive content, and the latest updates.

Check us out on EarthSnap, a free app brought to you by Eric Ralls and NEWS

Shubayqa research showed that the Epipaleolithic and Neolithic peoples used the wetlands to harvest plants and use waterfowl resources, which resulted in the creation of a year-round habitat for these birds.

The study emphasizes how crucial it is to understand how humans and other species influence their surroundings. The researchers contend that this cooperative habitat-shaping played a key role in igniting innovations that ultimately resulted in the development of agriculture.

Certain species have even evolved the ability to identify and take advantage of traffic patterns. Crows, for instance, have been seen tossing nuts for cars to break open on the highways. They wait for traffic to stop before retrieving the food.

Additionally, some birds have grown to tolerate—even enjoy—human presence. Many bird species that are accustomed to humans and may even approach them for food can be found in urban parks and gardens. This shows a marked change in behavior from their more circumspect rural counterparts.

Anthropologist Camilla Mazzucato of the University of Copenhagen, one of the study’s co-authors, said, “We know that agriculture developed in this region not long after these cultures, and we suggest that intentional management of wetlands was an important stage in this process.”

According to two generally recognized “rules” of biology, namely Allen’s and Bergmann’s, animals are likely to modify the size of their bodies or the length of their extremities in order to adapt their heat transfer capabilities as local temperatures change. The new research demonstrates that although the patterns suggested by these theories do occur in the wild, avian lineages’ complementary mechanisms mean that bodies and extremities do not need to change as much as first thought.

Baldwin, the study’s first author, stated, “Because most researchers have only tested one rule at a time, biologists have been arguing about these rules for over 150 years.” Our research sheds light on some of this debate by demonstrating that the majority of bird families have simultaneously modified their bills and bodies to adapt to extremely high temperatures.

The statistical analysis focused on how bird morphology has changed along gradients in ambient temperature, examining nearly 7,000 species of terrestrial non-migratory birds, or nearly two-thirds of all bird species.

A study in Nature Communications by biologists at Washington University in St. Louis and The University of Texas at Austin reveals clues about the relationship between temperatures and changes in the size of warm-blooded animals and their body parts.

The new research offers important clues about the way that animals, particularly birds, have adapted to changes in ambient temperatures, according to Justin Baldwin, a PhD candidate in biology in Arts & Sciences.


What are the most bird characteristics are adaptations to?

The bodies of birds are adapted for flying. Many of a bird’s bones are less dense than human bones, which makes birds’ bodies lightweight. Flying birds have large chest muscles that move the wings.

What are birds behavioral adaptations?

Behavioral adaptation is the way a bird acts or behaves to stay alive. For example if the American Wigeon cannot find enough food, it will steal food right out of the bill of an American Coot, or a Snowy Egret will stand still in the water with its wings stretched out, because fish are attracted to the shade.

How do birds adapt to urban environments?

Using data from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird program, the group analyzed birder checklist submissions from 379 cities across 48 countries and discovered that birds in urban areas tend to be smaller, eat a wider variety of foods, lay fewer eggs, and forage over smaller areas than their counterparts in rural