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Correlates of hornbill distribution and abundance in rainforest fragments in the southern Western Ghats, India

  • T.R. Shankar Raman (a1) (a2) and Divya Mudappa (a3)
Abstract

The distribution and abundance patterns of Malabar Grey Hornbill Ocyceros griseus and Great Hornbill Buceros bicornis were studied in one undisturbed and one heavily altered rainforest landscape in the southern Western Ghats, India. The Agasthyamalai hills (Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, KMTR) contained over 400 km2 of continuous rainforest, whereas the Anamalai hills (now Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary, IGWS) contained fragments of rainforest in a matrix of tea and coffee plantations. A comparison of point-count and line transect census techniques for Malabar Grey Hornbill at one site indicated much higher density estimates in point-counts (118.4/km2) than in line transects (51.5/km2), probably due to cumulative count over time in the former technique. Although line transects appeared more suitable for long-term monitoring of hornbill populations, point-counts may be useful for large-scale surveys, especially where forests are fragmented and terrain is unsuitable for line transects. A standard fixed radius point-count method was used to sample different altitude zones (600–1,500 m) in the undisturbed site (342 point-counts) and fragments ranging in size from 0.5 to 2,500 ha in the Anamalais (389 point-counts). In the fragmented landscape, Malabar Grey Hornbill was found in higher altitudes than in KMTR, extending to nearly all the disturbed fragments at mid-elevations (1,000–1,200 m). Great Hornbill persisted in the fragmented landscape using all three large fragments (> 200 ha). It was also recorded in four of five medium-sized fragments (25–200 ha) and one of five small fragments (< 25 ha), which was adjacent to shade coffee plantations. Abundance of Malabar Grey Hornbill declined with altitude and increased with food-tree species richness. Great Hornbill abundance increased with food-tree species richness, suggesting that maintenance of high diversity of hornbill food species in fragments is important for their persistence. It is likely that the smaller and less specialized Malabar Grey Hornbill will survive in disturbed and fragmented forest landscapes, while Great Hornbill is more vulnerable to habitat alteration. Protection and restoration of rainforest fragments and food-tree resources, besides protection of existing large fragments, will aid the conservation of hornbills in the region.

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Bird Conservation International
  • ISSN: 0959-2709
  • EISSN: 1474-0001
  • URL: /core/journals/bird-conservation-international
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