Original Papers


, Volume 67, Issue 2, pp 213-217

First online:

The role of habitat in avian community composition: physiognomy or floristics?

  • John T. RotenberryAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, Bowling Green State University

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It has been proposed that within rather broad habitat types the distribution and abundance of bird species may be more closely associated with plant taxonomic composition than with the structure and configuration of the vegetation. Birds from a sample of eight representative grassland habitats in middle and western North America are consistent with this hypothesis. Over half (55%) of the variation in bird community composition was associated with floristic variation, but only a third (35%) was associated with physiognomy. Separating the interacting effects of floristics and physiognomy from each other served to accentuate the difference between them with respect to the avifauna. It is postulated that bird species/plant taxa associations, especially within similar habitat types, are mediated by the specific food resources that different plant taxa provide. Summary indices such as diversity measures obscure the taxonomic information content of plant or animal assemblages, and the use of such indices has likely impeded detection of the relationships described here.