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Seasonal foraging ecology in a forest avifauna of northern Kenya

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 March 2004

Luca Borghesio
Affiliation:
Department of Ornithology, National Museums of Kenya, Box 40658, Nairobi, Kenya
Paola Laiolo
Affiliation:
Department of Ornithology, National Museums of Kenya, Box 40658, Nairobi, Kenya Dipartimento di Biologia Animale e dell'Uomo, Turin University, Via Accademia Albertina 17, I-10123 Turin, Italy

Abstract

We studied the avian foraging ecology in a single montane forest of northern Kenya, analysing the pattern of seasonal variation (wet vs. dry period) and its relationship with habitat structure. The foraging behaviour of 28 species was described in terms of four major dimensions (i.e. foraging technique, food substrate, perching site and perching height). Seasonal rainfall produced an increase in vegetation growth in the lower vegetation layers, while fruiting and flowering peaked in the dry season. We did not find much seasonal variation in foraging ecology when we analysed our data at the species or at the community levels. At the guild level, however, we found some seasonal shifts in perching height, food substrate and foraging technique. Some of these shifts seemed to be determined by food availability and distribution, as omnivores increased fruit consumption when this resource was more abundant, and nectarivores tracked the vertical distribution of flowers. The vertical biomass distribution of this avian community seemed to be largely determined by food. However, seasonal variation in the total biomass of some guilds was probably related to factors not considered in this study, such as breeding, or intra-African migratory movements. Altogether, despite marked seasonal variation in vegetation structure and food resources, the bird assemblage showed little change in its feeding ecology and micro-habitat use. Hence, we suggest that changes in habitat structure and resource levels were coped with primarily by adjusting population density and food requirements through seasonal breeding or migration.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
2004 Cambridge University Press

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