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Coexistence in Mediterranean warblers: ecological differences or interspecific territoriality?

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We studied the coexistence of four species of Sylvia warblers living in Mediterranean matorral in order to identify the respective role of ecological segregation and of interspecific territoriality in explaining the local distribution of these four species. Data on habitat use, foraging behaviour and interspecific spacial segregation were collected on Corsica and on Spargi (Sardinia) islands. Despite large overlap in patch selection and in foraging behaviour the four species did segregate ecologically and behaviourally while foraging (differences in the choice of plant species used for foraging, in the height of the plant selected, in the selection of the portion of the plant volume used and in the selection of the plant structure explored). Complementarity in foraging behaviour was observed in the morphologically and ecologically closest species: the Dartford (Sylvia undata) and the Marmora's (Sylvia sarda) warblers. We did not observe any evidence of direct interspecific interactions in song, alarm, or aggressive behaviour. Nor did we observe patterns of spatial distribution that would support the idea of coexistence by interspecific territorial exclusion. These results contrast with the results of Cody & Walter (1976) suggesting interspecific territoriality in Mediterranean Sylvia warblers. They are consistent with other published results emphasizing ecological differences as explanation for species coexistence.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: CEFE/CNRS BP 5051, F-34033 Montpellier Cedex, France and Parc Naturel RĂ©gional de la Corse, B.P. 417, F-20184 Ajaccio, Corsica

Publication date: 01 March 1996

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