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The potential of seed-eating birds to spread viable seeds of weeds and other undesirable plants

Twigg, L.E., Lowe, T.J., Taylor, C.M., Calver, M.C.ORCID: 0000-0001-9082-2902, Martin, G.R., Stevenson, C. and How, R. (2009) The potential of seed-eating birds to spread viable seeds of weeds and other undesirable plants. Austral Ecology, 34 (7). pp. 805-820.

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The potential for seed-eating birds to spread viable seeds was investigated using captive-feeding trials to determine seed preference, passage time through the gut, and viability of passed seeds for bronzewing pigeons (Phaps chalcoptera), peaceful doves (Geopelia striata), crested pigeons (Ocyphaps lophotes), Senegal doves (Streptopelia senegalensis), zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata), black ducks (Anas superciliosa) and wood ducks (Chenonetta jubata). Test seeds were bladder clover (Trifolium spumosum), crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum), gorse (Ulex europaeus), canola (Brassica napus) and red panicum (Setaria italica). Their consumption was compared with that of commercial seed mixes. Although all test seeds were recognizable foods, their consumption usually decreased in the presence of other foods, except for canola, where consumption rates were maintained. Hard-seeded bladder clover was the only species where viable seeds were passed by obligate seedeaters. In contrast, viable seeds of canola and gorse were passed by seed-eating omnivorous/ herbivorous ducks, although the germination of passed seeds (42%) was reduced significantly compared with that of untreated control seed (67%). Field validation with wild, urban bronzewings and Australian magpies (Gymnorhina tibicen) offered canola and commercial seed yielded similar outcomes, with a range of viable seeds recovered from magpie soft pellets. Mean seed passage time in captive birds ranged from 0.5 to 4.3 h for all test seeds and commercial seed mixes, suggesting that these bird species may potentially disperse seed over moderate distances. Despite the low probability of individual birds spreading viable seed, the high number of birds feeding in the wild suggests that the potential for granivorous and seed-eating omnivorous birds to disperse viable seeds cannot be discounted, particularly if exozoochorous dispersal is also considered.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology
Publisher: Blackwell Publishing Inc
Copyright: © 2009 Ecological Society of Australia.
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