Impact of invasive cane toads on Australian birds

Christa Beckmann*, Richard Shine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

28 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The cane toad (Bufo marinus), a large, toxic, American anuran, was introduced to Australia in 1935. Populations of many of Australia's reptiles (snakes, varanid lizards, crocodiles) and carnivorous mammals (dasyurid marsupials) have declined because these predators are killed by the toad's powerful toxins. In contrast to these well-studied species, little is known about the cane toads impacts on Australian birds. We reviewed published and unpublished data on behavioral interactions between Australian avian predators and cane toads and collated distributional and dietary information to identify avian taxa potentially at risk from cane toad invasion. Cane toads are sympatric with 172 frog-eating bird species in Australia, and an additional 8 bird species overlap with the predicted future range of the toad. Although many bird species thus are potentially at risk, behavioral observations suggest the risk level is generally low. Despite occasional reports of Australian birds being killed when they ingest cane toads, most birds either ignore toads or survive the predation event. The apparently higher tolerance of Australian birds to toad toxins, compared with Australian reptiles and marsupials, may reflect genetic exchange between Australian birds and Asian populations that encounter other bufonid species regularly and hence have evolved the capacity to recognize or tolerate this toxic prey.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1544-1549
Number of pages6
JournalConservation Biology
Volume23
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2009
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Australia
  • avian predators
  • cane toad
  • invasive species
  • toxic prey

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