Bird Behavior in Forest and Field – Supporting Ecosystem Services and Disservices

March 17, 2020

From tropical forests to temperate orchards, Catherine Lindell’s research provides two dynamic examples of bird behavior in these two ecosystems, as illustrated in her most recent publications from 2019.  First, William and Lindell’s investigation carried out in the tropical forest of the Madre de Dios region of Amazonian Peru explores the role of the Dusty-throated Antshrike as a driver of space use of mixed species flocks.  Careful recording of behavioral observations of Antshrikes and associated species, together with measures of environmental characteristics, and GPS coordinates of the birds, were used to predict Antshrike use of space.  Williams and Lindell concluded that the surrounding vegetation of the Dusty-throated Antshrike was the single-best variable explaining the space use patterns of the flocks surrounding them (2019:1).

Second, and moving northward, to the Mamoni Valley in Panama, Lindell and colleagues demonstrated that planting native tree species in highly degraded sites can generate rapid, positive responses from tropical bird communities” (Roels et al. 2019:1).  Bird species richness increased quickly over five years as the complexity of the vegetation of the restoration plots increased.  “In addition, birds provide ecosystem functions that facilitate forest recovery including seed dispersal, pollination, and herbivorous insect reduction” (Roels et al. 2019:2).  Findings from the plantation-style forest restoration study showed that “species richness had returned to approximately half of what would be expected in mature forest only four years after native tree planting” (2019:7; see Figure 1 below).

Closer to home, back in the continental United States, two additional publications examined bird behavior that causes ecosystem disservices in a temperate orchard context.  The first was a study of fruit-eating birds in  ’Honeycrisp’ apples, blueberries, grapes, and sweet cherries Michigan, New York, and the Pacific Northwest.  This study “used fruit-consumption data to identify bird species for each crop and region that have a great impact via fruit consumption”.  The researchers conclude that both American Robins and Cedar Waxwings “are important fruit consumers across regions and crops, while House Finches…are important in the Pacific Northwest” (Hannay et al. 2019:43).  Findings recommend highly specific Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approaches to target specific birds at specific times of year or points in their life cycle (e.g. scaring juvenile robins when they eat fruit while allowing them to provide pest control – by eating dropped fruit and ground insects – during other times of the year)(2019:48).

And finally on the list of 2019 publications, Lindell and colleagues compared the bird damage estimates of producers to field survey estimates for wine grapes, sweet cherries, and Honeycrisp Apples in Michigan, New York, Oregon, Washington, and California.  “The results of this study suggest accuracy of producer estimates of damage is dependent on crop type and growing region, with more accurate estimates associated with crops of shorter stature and smaller fruit size….In this study, growers received a questionnaire when field sampling took place in their crops…The authors did not find a statistically significant difference between the two sets of estimates” (Elser et al. 2019:3).

Meanwhile, Catherine Lindell’s students continue their work on American Kestrels nesting in Michigan cherry orchards. Additionally, in 2019 Lindell was appointed as the 15th Editor-in Chief of The Condor: Ornithological Applications, one of two peer-reviewed journals published by the American Ornithological Society.  To learn more, you can check out the Lindell Lab website.

Multiyear trends in site-scale Activity for four habitat following tree planting in a forest restoration in the Mamoní Valley, Panama.

Figure 1.  Multiyear trends in site-scale activity for four habitat types following tree planting in a forest restoration in the Mamoní Valley, Panama. Some birds could not be assigned to a guild because of insufficient taxonomic identification during field surveys (Roels et al. 2019:7).

Elser J.L., C.A. Lindell, K.M.M. Steensma, P.D. Curtis, D.K. Leigh, W.F. Siemer, J.R. Boulanger, S.A. Shwiff (2019) Measuring bird damage to three fruit crops: A comparison of grower and field estimates Crop Protection, Volume 123:1-4.

Hannay, M.B., J.R. , P.D. Curtis, R.A. Eaton, B.C. Hawes, D.K. Leigh, C.A. Rossetti, K.M.M. Steensma, C.A. Lindell (2019) Bird species and abundances in fruit crops and implications for bird management. Crop Protection, Volume 120:43-49.

Roels, S.M., M.B. Hannay, and C.A. Lindell. 2019. Recovery of bird activity and species richness in an early-stage tropical forest restoration. Avian Conservation and Ecology 14(1):9.

Williams, S.M. and C.A. Lindell (2019) The influence of a single species on the space use of mixed-species flocks in Amazonian Peru. Movement Ecology 7:37