3 years ago

The role of size and dominance in the feeding behaviour of coexisting hummingbirds

Gabriel López-Segoviano, María Del Coro Arizmendi, Rafael Bribiesca
Interspecific competition can strongly influence community structure and limit the distribution and abundance of species. One of the main factors that determine hummingbird community structure is competition for food. The temporal and spatial distribution of nectar has a strong impact on hummingbird assemblages, shaping foraging niches according to hummingbird dominance and foraging strategy. We investigated whether body size and the degree of aggressive dominance influence feeding behaviour of hummingbirds in a temperate forest in northwestern Mexico (El Palmito, Mexico) when winter migrant hummingbirds are present in the community. First, we determined the dominance status of hummingbirds and evaluated the relationship between dominance and body mass, wing disc loading and migratory status. Secondly, we determined how hummingbird species used plant species differently. Thirdly, we examined whether the most dominant hummingbird species defended floral patches with more energy and/or with a larger number of flowers. At each flower patch, hummingbird species, number of hummingbird interactions, feeding time and number of flowers present were recorded. The total number of calories available within each floral patch was also determined. Our results demonstrate that the dominance hierarchy of 13 hummingbird species (migratory and resident) was correlated with body size but not wing disc loading, and that members of the hummingbird community showed a clear separation in resource use (by plant species). Hummingbirds at the top of the dominance hierarchy defended and fed on the best flower patches, defined by the quantity of calories available. Hence, the feeding behaviour of hummingbirds at El Palmito depends on the abundance of plant species used by hummingbirds and on the amount of energy available from each flower patch. Thus, hummingbird body size, aggressive dominance and defence of quality flower patches determines niche partitioning among species.

Publisher URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/resolve/doi

DOI: 10.1111/ibi.12543

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