Program Information

Blue Ridge Audubon Program
Tuesday, September 21st at 7 p.m
Join us in person or online!
For everyone's safety: masks and social distancing required
UNCA's Reuter Center

1 University Heights

Asheville, NC 28804

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Staunch Defenders or Clueless Parents: How Carolina Chickadees Respond to Invasive House Wrens

An accelerating trend around the world is the reshuffling of species into new combinations. Through anthropogenic climate change, global shipping, the pet trade, and habitat modification, humans are facilitating the breakdown of natural dispersal barriers and moving species into new communities. Some become established in their new homes, spread, and cause conservation problems for native species who do not have evolutionary defenses for this new pathogen, predator, or competitor. One relatively new competitor of the local breeding bird community is the House Wren. These adorable birds are widely distributed, but they were not recorded as breeders in the Asheville area until 1940. Since then, they have spread and grown in number. House Wrens may pose a threat to native cavity-nesting birds such as Carolina Chickadees if House Wrens are out-competing other birds for nesting cavities which are already highly coveted and limited. Indeed, House Wrens are fierce and effective competitors. How do native breeding birds like Carolina Chickadees respond to this novel competitor? Do they even recognize House Wrens as a threat? Some preliminary research at Warren Wilson College aims to shed light on how Carolina Chickadee parents respond to this new member of their community.


Dr. Olya Milenkaya loves wildlife and wild places. As a Professor of Conservation Biology at Warren Wilson College, she has the privilege of sharing this enthusiasm with students in her courses which include animal behavior, conservation biology, and ornithology, among others. She also enjoys mentoring college students in their independent research, spanning a variety of topics from the behavior of cavity-nesting birds to the conservation of salamanders. Olya studied the physiological ecology of Crimson Finches in Australia for her doctoral research and earned her Ph.D. from Virginia Tech in 2013.

All BRAC programs are free and open to the public.

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