Original Paper


, Volume 97, Issue 1, pp 134-142

First online:

Diets of fruit-eating birds: what are the causes of interspecific differences?

  • Marcelino FuentesAffiliated withArea de Ecoloxía, Facultade de Bioloxía, Universidade de Santiago

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Differences in fruit choice among the bird species of a Spanish shrubland were related to the size of fruits and to the lipid content of pulp. Lipid-rich fruits were selected by the bird species with slower food passage rates through the digestive tract. These bird species also fed frequently on insects and seeds. Bird species with faster food passage rates fed less on insects and seeds, and ate mainly fruits with pulp poor in lipids (rich in sugars and water). Studies of digestion in birds indicate that lipids require slower food passage rates for efficient digestion and intestinal transport than simple sugars. The available evidence indicates that the European bird species that show stronger preferences for lipid-rich fruits are no better as seed dispersers, from the point of view of the plants, than species choosing lipidpoor fruits. Thus, the degree of frugivory of birds, their fruit choice patterns and their effects on seed dispersal do not seem to be related to each other in the ways expected by the early models of the evolution of fleshy fruits.

Key words

Bird Digestive physiology Fleshy fruit Frugivory Lipid