Given their abundance and migratory behavior, waterbirds have major potential for dispersing plants and invertebrates within North America, yet their role as vectors remains poorly understood. We investigated the numbers and types of invertebrates and seeds within freshly collected faecal samples (n = 22) of migratory dabbling ducks and shorebirds in November 2008 in two parts of Lake Texoma in southern Oklahoma. Killdeer Charadrius vociferus were transporting a higher number and diversity of both plants and invertebrates than the green-winged teal Anas carolinensis. Ten plant taxa and six invertebrate taxa were identified to at least genus level, although viability was not confirmed for most of these taxa. Bryozoan statoblasts (from four species not previously recorded from Oklahoma) were especially abundant in killdeer faeces, while the ostracod Candona simpsoni was detected as a live adult in torpor in the teal faeces. Cyperaceae and Juncaceae were the most abundant plant families represented and Cyperus strigosus seeds germinated after extraction from killdeer faeces. This snapshot study underlines the importance of waterbirds as vectors of passive dispersal of many organisms and the need for more research in this discipline.
Additional publication details
Endozoochory of seeds and invertebrates by migratory waterbirds in Oklahoma, USA