Communally nesting migratory birds create ecological hot-spots in Tropical Australia

Daniel J. D. Natusch, Jessica A. Lyons, Gregory Brown, Richard Shine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
10 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Large numbers of metallic starlings (Aplonis metallica) migrate annually from New Guinea to the rainforests of tropical Australia, where they nest communally in single emergent trees (up to 1,000 birds). These aggregations create dense and species-rich faunal "hot-spots", attracting a diverse assemblage of local consumers that utilise this seasonal resource. The starlings nested primarily in poison-dart trees (Antiaris toxicaria) near the rainforest-woodland boundary. Surveys underneath these colonies revealed that bird-derived nutrients massively increased densities of soil invertebrates and mammals (primarily wild pigs) beneath trees, year-round. Flying invertebrates, nocturnal birds, reptiles, and amphibians congregated beneath the trees when starlingswere nesting (the wet-season). Diurnal birds (primarily cockatoos and bush turkeys) aggregated beneath the trees during the dry-season to utilise residual nutrients when the starlingswere not nesting. The abundance of several taxa was considerably higher (to > 1000-fold) under colony trees than under nearby trees. The system strikingly resembles utilisation of bird nesting colonies by predators in other parts of the world but this spectacular system has never been described, emphasizing the continuing need for detailed natural-history studies in tropical Australia.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0162651
Number of pages13
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume11
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 5 Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2016. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Communally nesting migratory birds create ecological hot-spots in Tropical Australia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this