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Avian use of introduced plants: Ornithologist records illuminate interspecific associations and research needs

Aslan, Clare E., Rejmánek, Marcel
Ecological applications 2010 v.20 no.4 pp. 1005-1020
biocenosis, birds, correspondence analysis, ecological invasion, empirical research, fruits, habitats, indigenous species, introduced plants, nesting, questionnaires, seeds, surveys, United States
Introduced species have the potential to impact processes central to the organization of ecological communities. Although hundreds of nonnative plant species have naturalized in the United States, only a small percentage of these have been studied in their new biotic communities. Their interactions with resident (native and introduced) bird species remain largely unexplored. As a group, citizen scientists such as ornithologists possess a wide range of experiences. They may offer insights into the prevalence and form of bird interactions with nonnative plants on a broad geographic scale. We surveyed 173 ornithologists from four U.S. states, asking them to report observations of bird interactions with nonnative plants. The primary goal of the survey was to obtain information useful in guiding future empirical research. In all, 1143 unique bird–plant interactions were reported, involving 99 plant taxa and 168 bird species. Forty‐seven percent of reported interactions concerned potential dispersal (feeding on seeds or fruits). Remaining “habitat interactions” involved bird use of plants for nesting, perching, woodpecking, gleaning, and other activities. We utilized detrended correspondence analysis to ordinate birds with respect to the plants they reportedly utilize. Results illuminate the new guilds formed by these interactions. We assessed the existing level of knowledge about invasiveness of those plants reported most often in feeding interactions, identifying information gaps for biological invasions research priority. To exemplify the usefulness of citizen science data, we utilized survey results to guide field research on invasiveness in some of these plant species and observed both qualitatively and quantitatively strong agreement between survey reports and our empirical data. Questionnaire reports are therefore heuristically informative for the fields of both avian ecology and invasion biology.