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Oecologia. 2004 Apr;139(2):235-45. Epub 2004 Feb 11.

How do frugivores track resources? Insights from spatial analyses of bird foraging in a tropical forest.

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  • 1Department of Zoology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7617, USA.


Frugivores often track ripe fruit abundance closely across local areas despite the ephemeral and typically patchy distributions of this resource. We use spatial auto- and cross-correlation analyses to quantify spatial patterns of fruit abundance and avian frugivory across a 4-month period within a forested 4.05-ha study grid in Puerto Rico. Analyses focused on two tanager species, Spindalis portoricensis and Nesospingus speculiferus, and their principal food plants. Three broad questions are addressed: (1). at what spatial scales is fruit abundance and frugivory patchy; (2). at what spatial scales do frugivores respond to fruit abundance; and (3). to what extent do spatial patterns of frugivory overlap between bird species? Fruit patch size, species composition, and heterogeneity was variable among months, despite fruit patch locations remaining relatively consistent between months. Positive correlations between frugivory and fruit abundance suggested tanagers successfully tracked fruit abundance. Frugivory was, however, more localized than fruit abundance. Scales of spatial overlap in frugivory and monthly variation in the foraging locations of the two tanager species suggested that interspecific facilitation may have been important in determining bird foraging locations. In particular, S. portoricensis, a specialist frugivore, may have relied on the loud calls of the gregarious generalist, N. speculiferus, to find new foraging areas. Such a mechanism could help explain the formation of mixed species feeding flocks and highlights the potential importance of facilitation between species that share resources.

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