Our biologists criss-crossed the city with a network of birdhouses

The Faculty of Science cooperates with the City of Ostrava on a unique research project that focuses on passerines´ (songbirds) nesting ecology and the influence of urbanization on their nesting. This joint-project brings together members of the student organisation SOVA operating within the Department of Biology and Ecology, Faculty of Science, and the City of Ostrava. The initial part of the project consisted in the installation of 48 birdhouses in selected city districts.

Recently, cities have witnessed a rapid decrease in sites suitable for bird populations that, as a result, are declining. Some cities have already noticed this worldwide trend;they are launching research and examining the birds´ behaviour, or, they support nesting in the city. Ostrava has now joined these efforts. “We are participating in a project which will contribute to the increase in bird populations in the city and restore balance to the sites, which were abandoned by typical bird species. We have installed 46 birdhouses around three city districts. If the project succeeds, we plan on extending it to other districts as well, “said Kateřina Šebestová, Deputy Mayor for Environment.

Members of the student organisation SOVA are placing the birdhouses in selected localities. “We chose the places according to their building density, but finding suitable trees and obtaining consent from the landowners was equally important. We hope to find out the extent to which the building density influences bird nesting. However, there will be a parallel ecotoxicology experiment, focused on eggshell examination that should determine the amount of contamination by heavy metals from the industry or traffic in the city,” said the project leader, Stanislav Ožana who is a PhD student at the Department of Biology and Ecology. Ožana and his colleagues chose two colours for the birdhouses – turquoise and brown. Since turquoise, which can be found on the City logotype, stands in sharp contrast to brown, the researchers will examine birds´ preference between the two colours when it comes to finding a safe shelter from the predators.

The Faculty of Science carries out this research under the auspices of the Czech Society for Ornithology and, therefore, it is embraced by Otakar Závalský, Czech ornithologist who cooperates on the project with the students. “The city centres in the Czech Republic have rarely seen research like the one SOVA and its partners are now carrying out. Despite my long experience in the field, I think the results may surprise me. Let´s see what types of birds will nest in the city,” said vice-president of the Poodří Rescue Station and House of Nature.

Nevertheless, there is more to the research than just placing the birdhouses in streets, gap sites and parks. The team of researchers from the Faculty of Science wants to monitor the nesting sites every week. “We will do that using a small camera. The objective is to keep track of the nesting without opening the birdhouses as this might disturb the birds,” said Stanislav Ožana.

Throughout this year, the researchers will run a pilot project which will be evaluated at the end of the nesting season. “It is very important to mention that these alternative nesting sites are not meant to substitute the natural ones in the tree hollows. They represent a help, not a solution to the problem. We will only decide whether it may be convenient to increase the number of the birdhouses when we see the results of the pilot project,” said Ožana.

Updated: 23. 04. 2019