Can enhancement of garden habitat for native birds have conservation benefits, or are garden bird assemblages determined by landscape and environmental characteristics? The relative roles of vegetation structure, floristics and other garden attributes, and environmental and landscape controls, on the abundance and richness of bird species in 214 back or front gardens in 10 suburbs of Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, are addressed to answer this question. Birds were counted in each garden and the resources they utilized noted. Vascular plant species and other attributes of the garden were noted, along with rainfall, altitude, distance from natural vegetation, distance from the city and garden size. Garden floristics and bird assemblages were ordinated, and garden groups characterized by particular assemblages of birds identified. General linear modelling was used to determine the combinations of independent variables that best predicted the richness of birds and the abundance of individual bird species and groups of species. The models for bird richness, bird species and groups of bird species were highly individualistic. Although native birds showed a preference for native plants, they also utilized many exotic plants. Exotic birds largely utilized exotic plants. Variation in garden characteristics does substantially affect the nature of garden bird assemblages in Hobart, with weaker environmental and landscape influences. The fact that gardens can be designed and managed to favour particular species and species assemblages gives gardeners a potentially substantial role in the conservation of urban native avifauna. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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