Road-kills affect avian population quality

Małgorzata Bujoczek, Michał Ciach, Reuven Yosef

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Owing to the extensive development of road networks, millions of animals are killed annually. This impact on the natural environment has been questioned: is there a selection of victims in the car collisions? and do road-kills, as do predators, influence a population by eliminating individuals in poor condition? We compared road-killed individuals to those killed by predators in SE Poland in three bird species: Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella, Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica, and Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs. We applied ptilochronology, in which the width of feather growth bars represents an individual's relative nutritional condition. Our results show that the analyzed species were in significantly better body condition than those killed by raptors. Our study does not concur with previous studies which concluded that weaker individuals are more vulnerable on the road. Raptors select prey in poor condition, but road-killed individuals are in significantly better condition, so apparently road-kill results in the random elimination of healthy individuals. The conservation implications of this study are far-reaching; future road construction and safety regulations must take wildlife into consideration. If these human-created habitats are killing a significant proportion of the healthier part of natural populations in a non-selective manner, this could result in situations where fragmented populations could be driven to a critical stage, and/or the situation of declining or endangered populations worsened further.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1036-1039
Number of pages4
JournalBiological Conservation
Issue number3
StatePublished - 19 Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Barn Swallow
  • Chaffinch
  • Prey-selection
  • Ptilochronology
  • Road-kills
  • Yellowhammer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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