Resource seasonality and the structure of mixed species bird flocks in a coastal Atlantic forest of southeastern Brazil

Pedro Ferreira Develey, Carlos Augusto Peres

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Multi-species bird flocks in tropical forests are maintained throughout the annual cycle despite seasonal differences in resource availability, and the reproductive schedules and ecological requirements of individual species. This study examines the relationship between seasonal variation in flock structure and the availability of fruits and arthropods over a 12-mo period at a coastal Atlantic forest within the Jureia-Itatins Ecological Station, Sao Paulo, Brazil. Fruit abundance was estimated by a phenological survey of both canopy and understorey trees, whereas arthropod abundance was quantified monthly on the basis of a nocturnal visual census technique. The seasonal variation in flock structure and composition was affected by both the breeding seasons of different core and attendant species, and the availability of food resources. The number of bird species attending flocks was greater during the dry season, declining thereafter during the breeding season. Understorey fruit availability exhibited a marked seasonal fluctuation with the lowest levels between the late dry and early wet season. Seasonal variation in canopy fruit availability, on the other hand, was far less demarcated than that of understorey plants. Arthropod abundance was greatest during the wettest months of the year, which apparently determined the timing of the main breeding season. Bird species richness attending flocks was, therefore, significantly correlated with the availability of understorey arthropods, but not with that of either understorey and canopy fruits. Arthropod abundance thus appears to affect profoundly the reproductive schedules of the understorey avifauna, which in turn influences the seasonal variation of flock size and composition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-53
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Tropical Ecology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2000

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