Urbanization is one of the most widespread and extreme examples of habitat alteration. As humans dominate landscapes, they introduce novel elements into environments, including artificial light, noise pollution, and anthropogenic food sources. One understudied form of anthropogenic food is refuse from restaurants, which can alter wildlife populations and, in turn, entire wildlife communities by providing a novel and stable food source. Using data from the Maricopa Association of Governments and the Central Arizona-Phoenix Long Term Ecological Research (CAP LTER) project, we investigated whether and how the distribution of restaurants influences avian communities. The research aimed to identify restaurants, and thus the associated food they may provide, as the driver of potential patterns by controlling for other influences of urbanization, including land cover and the total number of businesses. Using generalized linear mixed models, we tested whether the number of restaurants within 1 km of bird monitoring locations predict avian community richness and abundance and individual species abundance and occurrence patterns. Results indicate that restaurants may decrease avian species diversity and increase overall abundance. Additionally, restaurants may be a significant predictor of the overall abundance of urban-exploiting species, including rock pigeon (Columba livia), mourning dove (Zenaida macroura), and Inca dove (Columbina Inca). Understanding how birds utilize anthropogenic food sources can inform possible conservation or wildlife management practices. As this study highlights only correlations, we suggest further experimental work to address the physiological ramifications of consuming anthropogenic foods provided by restaurants and studies to quantify how frequently anthropogenic food sources are used compared to naturally occurring sources.
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