The invasive exotic Chinese tallow tree (Triadica sebifera) produces an abundant fruit crop, which is primarily bird-dispersed. The fruit pulp of tallow is lipid-rich, high in saturated fatty acids, and consumed by many bird species. Long-chained fatty acids can be difficult for many birds to digest and we investigated the ability of tallow consumers to assimilate energy in the pulp. We used the total collection method and compared apparent metabolizable energy (AME) of tallow fruit for three species of birds with differing fruit composition in their natural diets. All birds exhibited nitrogen deficits and lost body mass during the trials. Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) lost more mass (8.73%/day) than Yellow-rumped Warblers (Dendroica coronata) (5.29%/day) and American Robins (Turdus migratorius) (5.48%/day), and had larger nitrogen deficits (-120.1 mg N/g diet) than both species as well (-36.4 mg N/g diet and -68.9 mg N/g diet, respectively). Food intake relative to metabolic body mass was highest in Yellow-rumped Warblers (0.70 g-dry/g 0.75??day). Northern Cardinal and American Robin food intake was lower and did not differ from each other (both species: 0.13 g-dry/g 0.75??day). Nitrogen corrected values of AME were used to make species comparisons. Yellow-rumped-Warblers exhibited the highest values of AME (30.00 kJ/g), followed by American Robins (23.90 kJ/g), and Northern Cardinals (14.34 kJ/g). We suggest tallow may be an important winter food source for Yellow-rumped Warblers where their ranges overlap.
Additional publication details
Metabolizable energy in Chinese tallow fruit for Yellow-rumped Warblers, Northern Cardinals, and American Robins