We examined diets of six insectivorous bird species (n = 202 individuals) from two vegetation zones along the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, 1994. All bird species consumed similar quantities of caterpillars and beetles, but use of other prey taxa varied. Non-native leafhoppers (Opsius stactagolus) specific to non-native tamarisk (Tamarix chinensis) substantially augmented Lucy's Warbler (Vermivora luciae) diets (49%), while ants comprised 82% of Yellow-breasted Chat (Icteria virens) diets. Yellow Warbler (Dendroica petechia) diets were composed of 45% aquatic midges. All bird species consumed the non-native leafhopper specific to tamarisk. Comparison of bird diets with availability of arthropod prey from aquatic and terrestrial origins showed terrestrial insects comprised 91% of all avian diets compared to 9% of prey from aquatic origin. Seasonal shifts in arthropod prey occurred in diets of three bird species, although no seasonal shifts were detected in arthropods sampled in vegetation indicating that at least three bird species were not selecting prey in proportion to its abundance. All bird species had higher prey overlap with arthropods collected in the native, mesquite-acacia vegetation zone which contained higher arthropod diversity and better prey items (i.e., Lepidoptera). Lucy's Warbler and Yellow Warbler consumed high proportions of prey items found in greatest abundance in the tamarisk-dominated vegetation zone that has been established since the construction of Glen Canyon Dam. These species appeared to exhibit ecological plasticity in response to an anthropogenic increase in prey resources.
Additional publication details
Diets of insectivorous birds along the Colorado River in Grand Canyon, Arizona