The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in extraordinary declines in human mobility, which, in turn, may affect wildlife. Using records of more than 4.3 million birds observed by volunteers from March to May 2017-2020 across Canada and the United States, we found that counts of 66 (80%) of 82 focal bird species changed in pandemic-altered areas, usually increasing in comparison to prepandemic abundances in urban habitat, near major roads and airports, and in counties where lockdowns were more pronounced or occurred at the same time as peak bird migration. Our results indicate that human activity affects many of North America's birds and suggest that we could make urban spaces more attractive to birds by reducing traffic and mitigating the disturbance from human transportation after we emerge from the pandemic.


This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Schrimpf, M., Des Brisay, P., Johnston, A., Smith, A., Sánchez-Jasso, J., Robinson, B., Warrington, M., Mahony, N., Horn, A., Strimas-Mackey, M., Fahrig, L. & Koper, N. 2021, 'Reduced human activity during COVID-19 alters avian land use across North America', Science Advances, 7(39), article no: eabf5073. https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.abf5073

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Last updated: 16 June 2022
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