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Avian Diversity and Functional Insectivory on North‐Central Florida Farmlands

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Abstract:  We studied the potential for native birds to control insect pests on farms. We assessed habitat factors correlated with diversity, distribution, and insect‐foraging activity of native birds on farms in north‐central Florida and then characterized common bird species that consumed insect biomass in crops as “functional insectivores” (birds most likely to contribute to pest control). Analyses of point‐count survey data and foraging observations collected over 2 years on paired organic and conventional farm sites indicated that (1) farms supported most (82–96%) land birds known to breed in the region; (2) bird species richness and abundance varied significantly with matrix habitat and field border type (but not with year or farm management type); (3) the highest bird abundances were associated with mixed crop plantings, field borders, and adjacent matrix composed of forest and hedge; and (4) abundances of 10 species identified as functional insectivores were primarily influenced by crop type (mixed crops attracted significantly more insect foragers into fields than monocrops). We documented birds eating pest insects in crops and did not observe substantive crop damage by birds during growing‐season observations. We advocate use of the term functional insectivore to emphasize the potential positive role of avian insectivory on farms during the growing season.
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Language: English

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation 110 Newins-Ziegler Hall, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-0430, U.S.A.

Publication date: August 1, 2005

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