Preference for an invasive fruit trumps fruit abundance in selection by an introduced bird in the Society Islands, French Polynesia


Introduced plants with fleshy fruit can alter the dietary decisions of frugivorous birds in their novel ranges by producing fruit of higher quality or by producing fruit in greater abundance. We used fruit choice experiments with wild-caught captive Red-vented Bulbuls (Pycnonotus cafer) on the tropical Pacific island of Moorea, French Polynesia, to determine whether this bird prefers the fruit of a highly invasive tree (Miconia calvescens) over three other fruit (one alien, two native) and to determine whether birds would eat less preferred fruit when it was more abundant than preferred fruit. Birds showed consistent preferences, and chose M. calvescens more than any other species. Birds selected more abundant fruit first when a single species was presented. However, when both fruit species and abundance were modified simultaneously, patterns of preference for particular species remained intact while the response to abundance disappeared. Results imply that dietary preferences are more important than small-scale variations in abundance for fruit selection. The strong preference for M. calvescens suggests that Bulbuls will select the fruit even in habitats where it is rare.

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We thank Carol Raydon, Ravahere Taputuarai, Kelly Kaban, Laura Stephenson, Hela Tetanui, Alex Song, Jasper Wu, Stephanie Taing and the staff at the Richard B. Gump Field Station on Moorea for help with fieldwork and logistical support. Helpful comments on the methods and manuscript were provided by Doug Levey, John Battles, Brent Mishler, and the members of Steve Bessinger laboratory at UC Berkeley. Funding was provided by the University of California and US National Science Foundation grant DEB-1011697. The corresponding author was supported during fieldwork with a Fulbright and a fellowship from PEO International. A research permit for this work was provided by the Délégation à la Recherche (French Polynesian government). This experiment was carried out under a permit from the University of California at Berkeley Animal Care and Use committee (permit #R313-0610).

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Correspondence to Erica N. Spotswood.

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Spotswood, E.N., Meyer, JY. & Bartolome, J.W. Preference for an invasive fruit trumps fruit abundance in selection by an introduced bird in the Society Islands, French Polynesia. Biol Invasions 15, 2147–2156 (2013).

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  • Frugivory
  • Miconia calvescens
  • Pycnonotus cafer
  • Feeding preference
  • Invasive plants