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Honeydew foraging by birds in tropical montane forests and pastures of Mexico

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 March 2010

Heather A. Gamper
Department of Biological Sciences, Florida International University, Miami, FL 33199, USA
Suzanne Koptur
Department of Biological Sciences, Florida International University, Miami, FL 33199, USA


A honeydew-producing scale insect, Stigmacoccus garmilleri (Margarodidae), is associated with oak trees (Quercus spp.) in highland forests of Mexico. Although feeding by ants on scale-insect honeydew is more frequently documented in the literature, the honeydew produced by feeding instars of S. garmilleri is sufficient to provide nourishment for birds. This study elucidates bird use of honeydew in the tropical montane forests near Chiconquiaco, Veracruz, Mexico, and uncovers patterns in honeydew foraging. Over a 2-mo period, 40 trees harbouring scale insects, located in both forest and pasture areas, were intensely studied (160 h of bird-foraging observations along with quantitative measurements of honeydew production). Fifteen resident bird species and 18 migrant species were observed visiting observation trees. Approximately 72% of the resident bird species and 83% of the migrant bird species observed were recorded to forage on scale-insect honeydew. Audubon's warbler (Dendroica coronata auduboni) was the most active consumer and defender of the resource. Of 118 aggressive chases observed, only 9.65% occurred in forest observation trees, and 90.3% in pasture trees. Audubon's warbler demonstrated preferential defence and territorial patrolling of scale-insect honeydew in scattered pasture trees.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2010

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