Exurban development is a prevalent cause of habitat loss and alteration throughout the globe and is a common land-use pattern in areas of high natural amenity value. We investigated the response of bird communities to exurban development in two contrasting North American regions, the Adirondack Park (New York) in the eastern US, and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (Montana) in the Rocky Mountain West. We combined social and ecological data collection methods to compare the effects of exurban development on avian communities between the two landscapes, and, in exurban residential areas within them, to compare the relative roles of habitat structure, resource provisioning, and human disturbance in influencing avian habitat use. Contrasting with an earlier pilot study, we found differential effects of exurban development in the two regions, with birds generally more responsive in the Adirondack Park. Characteristics of habitat context and structure had larger influences on bird habitat use than human-associated resource provisioning or disturbance in both landscapes. The smaller magnitude and high variability in the responses of birds to landowner stewardship and/or disturbance suggest that broader geographical factors are highly important and that careful siting of developments on the landscape may be more successful at protecting wildlife communities than attempts to influence the behaviors of their inhabitants once built.
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