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Home Range and Movement Patterns of Toucans: Implications for Seed Dispersal

Holbrook, Kimberly M.
Biotropica 2011 v.43 no.3 pp. 357-364
Ramphastos, birds, canopy, frugivores, home range, national parks, radio telemetry, seed dispersal, seeds, trees, tropical forests, tropics, Ecuador
Toucans (Ramphastidae) are highly frugivorous, widespread throughout the Neotropics, and travel long distances, thus likely providing dispersal for many tropical trees. Despite being large conspicuous members of the canopy and subcanopy bird community, their movement ecology has been little studied. To understand how these frugivores move through a lowland tropical forest, I tracked the movements of Ramphastos tucanus (White-throated Toucan), Ramphastos vitellinus (Channel-billed Toucan), and Pteroglossus pluricinctus (Many-banded Araçari) in Yasuní National Park, Ecuador. The objectives of this study were to use radiotelemetry to estimate toucan home ranges, movement patterns, and potential seed dispersal distances. Using canopy nets, a total of 20 P. pluricinctus and three Ramphastos toucans were captured, radio-tagged, and tracked over a 4-yr period from 2001 to 2005. Average home range sizes were 191 and 86 ha for P. pluricinctus and Ramphastos toucans, respectively. The maximum travel distance in a single 30-min tracking interval was 3665 m for P. pluricinctus and 3027 m for Ramphastos. Estimated dispersal distances of medium-sized seeds ranged from 269 to 449 m. Large home range size and long-distance movements indicate that toucans likely disperse seeds over a scale of hundreds of meters. This study is the first to estimate home range size of any toucan species in intact closed-canopy forests. Abstract in Spanish is available at