How do predators and scavengers locate resource hotspots within a tropical forest?

Daniel J. D. Natusch*, Jessica A. Lyons, Richard Shine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)


In many parts of the world, wildlife species congregate at ‘hotspot’ locations that offer feeding opportunities unmatched in the wider landscape. But to exploit those resource-rich sites, animals must first locate them. In tropical Australia, predators and scavengers (especially dingos, scrub turkeys, snakes, and invasive toads) gather beneath large canopy-emergent trees that house breeding colonies of metallic starlings (Aplonis metallica). Some wildlife species feed on fallen nestlings whereas others consume the rich insect fauna supported by bird detritus, or the other species attracted to those resources. Those congregations largely cease as soon as colony trees fall, suggesting that wildlife aggregations are responses to bird-associated cues rather than to specific locations. To identify the proximate cues that elicit congregation of wildlife under such trees, we deployed sound cues (starling-chatter) and two types of scent cues (soil from beneath a starling tree, and complete nests on broken branches). We recorded visitations by animals with camera-traps. Starling-chatter did not attract significant numbers of animals, but soil from beneath colony trees attracted many animals (mostly scrub turkeys). Complete nests attracted nest-predators (dingos, snakes). Our experiments suggest that faunal aggregations beneath colony trees are driven by proximate responses to distinctive scent cues in the soil, especially for species that obtain their food from that bird-fertilized substrate; but predators that feed directly on fallen nestlings key in specifically on that resource.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)742-749
Number of pages8
JournalAustral Ecology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • metallic starling
  • olfactory stimuli
  • proximate cues
  • resource location
  • snake

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