Avian fruit consumption may ensure plant reproductive success when frugivores show consistent preference patterns and effectively remove and disperse seeds. In this study we examined avian fruit preferences and their seed-removal services at five study sites in north-central Puerto Rico. At each site, we documented the diet of seven common fruit-eating avian species from February to September 1998. Using foraging observations and area-based estimates of fruit abundance, we examined preference patterns of birds. We found that 7 out of 68 fleshy-fruited plant species were responsible for most of the fruit diet of birds. Seventeen plant species were preferred and four of them were repeatedly preferred across several study sites and times by at least one avian species. Preferred plant species comprised a small percentage of fleshy fruits at each site (<15% in four out of five study sites), but showed extended phenology patterns. The quantity of seeds removed by frugivore species was not strictly related to preferences. Some frugivores showing no preference could effectively remove more seeds from plants at some locations than species exhibiting constancy in their patterns of preference. Only two frugivores, Euphonia musica and Vireo altiloquous, removed most of the seeds of plants for which they exhibited repeated preference across the landscape. Preference patterns, particularly those exhibiting consistency in space and time for plant species having prolonged fruiting periods, may have important mechanistic consequences for the persistence, succession, and regeneration of tropical plant communities.
Additional publication details
Avian fruit preferences across a Puerto Rican forested landscape: Pattern consistency and implications for seed removal