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Habitat preferences of birds in a montane forest mosaic in the Bamenda Highlands, Cameroon

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Although the high species richness and endemism of birds in the Bamenda Highlands has attracted ornithological research for decades, most studies have been restricted to bird communities of continuous montane forests. Instead, we focused on a mosaic landscape with montane forest remnants, where the habitat preferences of birds remain unknown. We performed an assessment of habitat associations of birds in the Bamenda Highlands in the Cameroon Mountains. Using a point count census method, we detected 71 species within the study area. The most abundant species were the Northern Double-collared Sunbird Cynniris reichenowi, the Oriole Finch Linurgus olivaceus, the Common Stonechat Saxicola torquata, the Thick-billed Seed-eater Serinus burtoni, the Black-crowned Waxbill Estrilda nonnula, the Brown-backed Cisticola Cisticola chubbi and the Yellow-breasted Boubou Laniarius atroflavus. Canonical correspondence analysis revealed that the most important environmental gradient structuring the bird community follows the forest coverage. We found that both endemic and non-endemic montane species are more closely associated with montane forest remnants, compared to widespread species. Endemic species are most closely dependent on continuous forest cover. However, some montane species did not show any clear habitat associations and thus can be viewed as local habitat generalists. This study shows that many restricted-range species (including endangered endemics) are able to live in fragmented landscapes, which cover a substantial part of the Bamenda Highlands. Therefore, conservation programmes should focus their action plans on these landscapes.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2007

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