Richness, diversity, and similarity of arthropod prey consumed by a community of Hawaiian forest birds

Banko, Paul
Peck, Robert
Brinck, Kevin
Leonard, David
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We evaluated the diet richness, diversity, and similarity of a community of seven endemic and two introduced passerine birds by analyzing the composition of arthropod prey in fecal samples collected during 1994–1998 at Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge, Hawai‘i Island. Most prey fragments were identified to order, but we also distinguished among morpho-species of Lepidoptera based on the shape of larval (caterpillar) mandibles for higher resolution of this important prey type. Diets were compared among feeding specialists, generalists, and “intermediate” species and among introduced and three endangered Hawaiian honeycreeper (Fringillidae) species. Lepidoptera (moths), especially the larval (caterpillar) stage, comprised the greatest proportion of prey in samples of all bird species except for the introduced Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus; JAWE). Araneae (spiders) was the most abundant order in JAWE samples and the second most abundant order for most other species. The two specialist honeycreepers ranked lowest in the richness and diversity of arthropod orders, but only the ‘akiapōlā‘au (Hemignathus munroi, AKIP) was significantly lower than the three generalist or intermediate honeycreeper species. The diversity of arthropod orders was significantly lower for the three endangered honeycreeper species compared to the two introduced species. No significant differences were observed among the five honeycreepers with respect to the arthropod orders they consumed. The use of arthropod orders taken by endangered honeycreepers and introduced species was significantly different in all paired comparisons except for JAWE and ‘ākepa (Loxops coccineus; AKEP). In terms of richness and diversity of caterpillar morpho-species in the diet, only the specialist, AKEP, was significantly lower than all three generalist and intermediate species. Both AKEP and AKIP consumed a significantly different diet of caterpillar morpho-species compared to at least one honeycreeper generalist or intermediate species. Among the endangered honeycreepers and introduced species, the richness and diversity of caterpillar morpho-species was significantly lower only for AKEP compared to both introduced species. Significant differences were not observed between endangered and introduced species in the distribution of caterpillar morpho-species in the diet. Only three morpho-species were heavily exploited, with one being consumed by all bird species. The heavy exploitation of very few morpho-species by specialists underscored their greater vulnerability to changes in forest food webs and threats to key arthropod prey. When evaluated together with data on overlap in foraging behavior, our results could be useful in evaluating competition between bird species at Hakalau. Nevertheless, invasive parasitoid wasps may impact key caterpillar prey more substantially than do introduced birds, highlighting the need for additional research to understand the ecology of caterpillar species and their interactions with both invertebrate and vertebrate consumers. The severe decline of specialist bird species historically and recently is a reminder of the importance of maintaining food web resilience, potentially through vigorous habitat restoration, to withstand the continuing and perhaps increasing threats from a diverse array of invasive species and climate change.
diet, endemic, introduced, forest birds
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