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Koedoe

On-line version ISSN 2071-0771
Print version ISSN 0075-6458

Abstract

HAUSLER, Guy  and  SLATER, Kerry. The composition of mixed-species foraging flocks of birds in Kruger National Park, South Africa. Koedoe [online]. 2016, vol.58, n.1, pp.1-7. ISSN 2071-0771.  http://dx.doi.org/10.4102/koedoe.v58i1.1314.

Mixed-species foraging flocks (MSFFs) of birds can be defined as aggregations of more than two species that actively initiate and continue their association while foraging, without being drawn to a single resource. MSFFs have been well documented for terrestrial habitats globally, but rarely in southern Africa. This study describes the composition of MSFFs in two habitat types (Acacia and Combretum) within the southern Kruger National Park, South Africa during the late dry season. Thirty-one MSFFs were recorded in each of the two habitat types, with 1251 individuals of 74 different species being observed. We found that compared to Combretum, (mean: 10.7 ± 5.2 s.d.) Acacia had significantly more individuals per MSFFs (mean: 21.5 ± 12.6 s.d.) and more species per MSFF (Acacia mean: 8.7 ± 3.5 s.d.; Combretum mean: 5.9 ± 1.7 s.d.). The mean number of individuals per species per 31 MSFFs was 9.3 (± 4.5 s.d.) and 7.6 (± 5.6 s.d.) in the Acacia and Combretum habitat types respectively. The most frequently occurring species in both habitat types was the Fork-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus adsimilis). There was a significant association between certain species pairs in both habitats. Future studies in this area could be done to investigate the reasons behind the differences in MSFF sizes and species numbers between habitats. The season during which this study was performed excluded all summer migrants and a similar investigation in the wet season may reveal a different MSFF composition. CONSERVATION IMPLICATIONS: Understanding the dynamics and compositions of MSFFs, could form a valuable component of avian biodiversity monitoring both in and outside of protected areas. Within a given area, changes in the composition and behaviour of MSFFs over time could potentially be used as early indicator of threats to biodiversity.

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