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Compounding and complementary carnivores: Australian bird species eaten by the introduced European red fox Vulpes vulpes and domestic cat Felis catus

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 December 2021

JOHN C.Z. WOINARSKI
Affiliation:
NESP Threatened Species Recovery Hub, Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, Northern Territory 0909, Australia.
ALYSON M. STOBO-WILSON*
Affiliation:
NESP Threatened Species Recovery Hub, Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, Northern Territory 0909, Australia.
HEATHER M. CRAWFORD
Affiliation:
Centre for Terrestrial Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, Harry Butler Institute, Murdoch University, 90 South Street, Murdoch, Western Australia 6150, Australia.
STUART J. DAWSON
Affiliation:
Centre for Terrestrial Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, Harry Butler Institute, Murdoch University, 90 South Street, Murdoch, Western Australia 6150, Australia.
CHRIS R. DICKMAN
Affiliation:
NESP Threatened Species Recovery Hub, Desert Ecology Research Group, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Heydon-Laurence Building A08, University of Sydney, New South Wales 2006, Australia.
TIM S. DOHERTY
Affiliation:
School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Heydon-Laurence Building A08, University of Sydney, New South Wales2006, Australia.
PATRICIA A. FLEMING
Affiliation:
Centre for Terrestrial Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, Harry Butler Institute, Murdoch University, 90 South Street, Murdoch, Western Australia 6150, Australia.
STEPHEN T. GARNETT
Affiliation:
NESP Threatened Species Recovery Hub, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, Northern Territory 0909, Australia.
MATTHEW N. GENTLE
Affiliation:
Pest Animal Research Centre, Invasive Plants and Animals, Biosecurity Queensland, 203 Tor Street, Toowoomba, Queensland 4350, Australia.
SARAH M. LEGGE
Affiliation:
NESP Threatened Species Recovery Hub, Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Research, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia.
THOMAS M. NEWSOME
Affiliation:
Global Ecology Lab, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW2006, Australia.
RUSSELL PALMER
Affiliation:
Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, Locked Bag 104, Bentley Delivery Centre, Western Australia 6983, Australia.
MATTHEW W. REES
Affiliation:
Quantitative & Applied Ecology Group, School of Biosciences, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3010, Australia.
EUAN G. RITCHIE
Affiliation:
Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University, Burwood, Victoria 3125, Australia.
JAMES SPEED
Affiliation:
Pest Animal Research Centre, Invasive Plants and Animals, Biosecurity Queensland, 203 Tor Street, Toowoomba, Queensland 4350, Australia.
JOHN-MICHAEL STUART
Affiliation:
Centre for Terrestrial Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, Harry Butler Institute, Murdoch University, 90 South Street, Murdoch, Western Australia 6150, Australia.
EILYSH THOMPSON
Affiliation:
Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University, Burwood, Victoria 3125, Australia.
JEFF TURPIN
Affiliation:
School of Environmental and Rural Science, University of New England, Armidale, New South Wales 2351, Australia.
BRETT P. MURPHY
Affiliation:
NESP Threatened Species Recovery Hub, Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, Northern Territory 0909, Australia.
*
*Author for correspondence, email: alyson.stobowilson@gmail.com

Abstract

Two introduced carnivores, the European red fox Vulpes vulpes and domestic cat Felis catus, have had extensive impacts on Australian biodiversity. In this study, we collate information on consumption of Australian birds by the fox, paralleling a recent study reporting on birds consumed by cats. We found records of consumption by foxes on 128 native bird species (18% of the non-vagrant bird fauna and 25% of those species within the fox’s range), a smaller tally than for cats (343 species, including 297 within the fox’s Australian range, a subset of that of the cat). Most (81%) bird species eaten by foxes are also eaten by cats, suggesting that predation impacts are compounded. As with consumption by cats, birds that nest or forage on the ground are most likely to be consumed by foxes. However, there is also some partitioning, with records of consumption by foxes but not cats for 25 bird species, indicating that impacts of the two predators may also be complementary. Bird species ≥3.4 kg were more likely to be eaten by foxes, and those <3.4 kg by cats. Our compilation provides an inventory and describes characteristics of Australian bird species known to be consumed by foxes, but we acknowledge that records of predation do not imply population-level impacts. Nonetheless, there is sufficient information from other studies to demonstrate that fox predation has significant impacts on the population viability of some Australian birds, especially larger birds, and those that nest or forage on the ground.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of BirdLife International

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Compounding and complementary carnivores: Australian bird species eaten by the introduced European red fox Vulpes vulpes and domestic cat Felis catus
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