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Arthropod prey of shelterbelt-associated birds: linking faecal samples with biological control of agricultural pests

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The value of insectivorous birds as agents for biological control of arthropod pests has been little studied, especially in Australia. This paper reports on the extent to which arthropods from various pest and non-pest taxa feature in the diets of birds captured in farm shelterbelts in central western New South Wales. The parameters examined were the types of arthropod fragments in bird faeces and percentage volume and frequency of occurrence of each component. The faecal data were compared with samples of the arthropod fauna trapped in shelterbelts during the period the birds were captured. In 26 of 29 faecal samples, arthropod fragments were the predominant components, the most common being from Coleoptera, Hymenoptera (especially Formicidae), Orthoptera and Araneae. The recognisable pest taxa in faecal samples were Scarabaeidae and wingless grasshopper Phaulacridium vittatum (Sjöstedt) (Orthoptera: Acrididae). The results indicate that the native bird species common in farm shelterbelts preyed on a range of arthropod taxa including several that are pests of crops and pastures. Accordingly, conservation of birds in farmlands could contribute to suppression of arthropod pests.
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Keywords: biological control; bird diet; faecal analysis; shelterbelt

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Pest Biology and Management Group, The University of Sydney, 346 Leeds Parade, Orange, NSW 2800, Australia 2: Pest Biology and Management Group, Charles Sturt University, 346 Leeds Parade, Orange, NSW 2800, Australia

Publication date: November 1, 2007

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