Seasonal diets of insectivorous birds using canopy gaps in a bottomland forest

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Abstract:

ABSTRACT. 

Little is known about how insectivorous bird diets are influenced by arthropod availability and about how these relationships vary seasonally. We captured birds in forest-canopy gaps and adjacent mature forest during 2001 and 2002 at the Savannah River Site in Barnwell County, South Carolina, and flushed their crops to gather information about arthropods eaten during four periods: spring migration, breeding, postbreeding, and fall migration. Arthropod availability for foliage- and ground-gleaning birds was examined by leaf clipping and pitfall trapping. Coleopterans and Hemipterans were used by foliage- and ground-gleaners more than expected during all periods, whereas arthropods in the orders Araneae and Hymenoptera were used as, or less than, expected based on availability during all periods. Ground-gleaning birds used Homopterans and Lepidopterans in proportions higher than availability during all periods. Arthropod use by birds was consistent from spring through fall migration, with no apparent seasonal shift in diet. Based on concurrent studies, heavily used orders of arthropods were equally abundant or slightly less abundant in canopy gaps than in the surrounding mature forest, but bird species were most frequently detected in gaps. Such results suggest that preferential feeding on arthropods by foliage-gleaning birds in gap habitats reduced arthropod densities or, alternatively, that bird use of gap and forest habitat was not determined by food resources. The abundance of arthropods across the stand may have allowed birds to remain in the densely vegetated gaps where thick cover provides protection from predators.

Keywords: Coleoptera; arthropods; bird diets; crop flushing; migration; postbreeding

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1557-9263.2006.00081.x

Affiliations: 1: Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, North Carolina State University, Campus Box 8003, Raleigh, North Carolina 27695-8003, USA 2: Southern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Savannah River, P.O. Box 700, New Ellenton, South Carolina 29809, USA 3: Department of Entomology, North Carolina State University, Campus Box 7630, Raleigh, North Carolina 27695-7630, USA 4: USDA Forest Service, 320 Green St., Athens, Georgia 30602-2044, USA

Publication date: March 1, 2007

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