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Differences in insectivore bird diets in coffee agroecosystems driven by obligate or generalist guild, shade management, season, and year.

Abstract

Neotropical shade-grown coffee systems are renowned for their potential to conserve avian biodiversity. Yet, little is known about food resources consumed by insectivorous birds in these systems, the extent of resource competition between resident and migratory birds, or how management of shade trees might influence diet selection. We identified arthropods in stomach contents from obligate and generalist insectivorous birds captured in mist-nets at five coffee farms in Chiapas, Mexico between 2001-2003. Overall stomach contents from 938 individuals revealed dietary differences resulting from changes in seasons, years, and foraging guilds. Of four species sampled across all management systems, Yellow-green Vireo (Vireo flavoviridis) prey differed depending on coffee shade management, consuming more ants in shaded monoculture than polyculture systems. Diets of obligate and generalist resident insectivores were 72% dissimilar with obligate insectivores consuming more Coleoptera and Araneae, and generalist insectivores consuming more Formicidae and other Hymenoptera. This suggests that obligate insectivores target more specialized prey whereas generalist insectivores rely on less favorable, chemically-defended prey found in clumped distributions. Our dataset provides important natural history data for many Nearctic-Neotropical migrants such as Tennessee Warbler (Leiothlypis peregrina; N = 163), Nashville Warbler (Leiothlypis ruficapilla; N = 69), and Swainson's Thrush (Catharus ustulatus; N = 68) and tropical residents including Red-legged Honeycreepers (Cyanerpes cyaneus; N = 70) and Rufous-capped Warblers (Basileuterus rufifrons; N = 56). With declining arthropod populations worldwide, understanding the ecological interactions between obligate and generalist avian insectivores gives researchers the tools to evaluate community stability and inform conservation efforts.

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