Scale dependent habitat selection for food and safety of autumn migrating frugivorous passerines

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Sapir, N., Abramsky, Z., Shochat, E. and Izhaki, I. 2004. Scale dependent habitat selection for food and safety of autumn migrating frugivorous passerines. Naturwissenschaften 91:544-547.

 

ABSTRACT

Frugivorous migrants may select fruit-rich habitats en route to attain high food rewards, yet their stopover behavior may also be shaped by other considerations, such as predation risk. During 1996–2001 we investigated autumn stopover habitat use of three Sylvia warblers (sylviids; S. hortensis, S. atricapilla and S. curruca) and three Turdidae chats (turdids; Cercotrichas galactotes, Oenanthe hispanica and Phoenicurus phoenicurus) in planted groves of the fruiting tree Pistacia atlantica in Lahav Forest, Israel, which is located at the edge of a desert. We used fecal analysis, a constanteffort trapping scheme and field observations to estimate the extent of frugivory, and bird habitat and microhabitat selection with regard to natural fruit and foliage densities. We also measured bird microhabitat selection in a set of fruit-manipulated trees. We trapped a total of 2,357 birds during the course of the study. Although sylviids exhibited higher frugivory level than turdids, both species groups exhibited a similar significantly positive correlation between bird and fruit densities at the habitat scale. However, at the microhabitat scale, sylviids selected densely foliated trees, whilst turdids were randomly distributed among trees. Our findings suggest that both
species groups selected fruit-rich stopover habitats to take advantage of the high food availability before the demanding migration journey. No other mechanism except predation avoidance can explain the sylviids’ microhabitat selection; the migrants used foliage cover to reduce bird detectability by raptors. We conclude that en route passerines may use staging habitats in a sophisticated manner, by adopting scale-related behavior with regard to the availability of food and refuge cover.