Date of Award

Fall 12-18-2020

Level of Access

Open-Access Thesis

Department

Wildlife Ecology and Wildlife Conservation

Advisor

Amber Roth

Second Committee Member

Cynthia Loftin

Third Committee Member

Anne Lichtenwalner

Abstract

Wildlife rehabilitation centers collect large datasets that focus on medical care, yet they also collect information more broadly relevant to wildlife conservation. The goal of this study was to demonstrate the potential for these datasets to be used in conservation science to better understand avian threats, mortality, and mitigation opportunities. We quantified the causes of bird admissions to rehabilitation centers within the Northeast and Midwest United States, the mortality rates during rehabilitation by admission cause, and the proportion of anthropogenic-caused admissions. Additionally, we related human population and development metrics to the number of bird admissions to better understand geographic bias in the dataset.

More than 68,000 bird records were organized, reformatted, and reclassified for uniformity. The dataset from this study included five rehabilitation centers from rural environments and five from urban environments. The top five causes of avian admissions to the wildlife rehabilitation centers were orphaning (21% of total admissions), window strikes (13%), vehicle collisions (8%), nest destruction (3%), and encounters with domestic cats (5%). Anthropogenic causes of admission represented 38% of total known admissions and was six times greater than natural causes. Admission number does not relate to human population and development metrics despite the majority of admissions being sourced from metropolitan environments. Combined datasets from multiple wildlife rehabilitation centers can be used to investigate a variety of conservation questions. In addition, these datasets can support or validate other avian conservation research related to identifying threats and sources of mortality. However, the inconsistencies in record keeping among rehabilitation centers prevent a timely and efficient process for data management and analysis. Adding categorical variables within records and greater utilization of wildlife rehabilitation datasets can facilitate use of wildlife rehabilitation by researchers to inform avian conservation science.

Included in

Ornithology Commons

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