, Volume 48, Issue 1, pp 55-73,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 29 Aug 2012

Rook Spring Seed Dispersal in the Agricultural Landscape – Frugivory, Granivory or Accidental Transport?

Abstract

Seed dispersal seems to be extremely important in agrocoenoses where suitable habitats (patches) are surrounded by an unfavourable environment (matrix). The role of the rook Corvus frugilegus, an omnivorous bird, in seed dispersal was studied in the agricultural landscape of Eastern Poland. We analyzed 739 pellets produced by regurgitation, which were collected under breeding colonies in April, May and June. Our goal was to i) assess the structure of the seed pool in pellets; ii) evaluate the temporal variation in the pellet seed pool on two different time scales; iii) compare the species composition of seeds in pellets and vegetation under the rook nests. Seeds were present in 18 % of pellets; 571 seeds were found, half of them belonging to dry-fruited species, without any obvious adaptations to endozoochory. These seeds could be an additional source of food, or they could have been accidentally swallowed during foraging for other food items. Taking into consideration the abundance of the rook population, we assessed the mean number of seeds transferred by one bird to be from 4 seeds per month in April and up to 160 seeds in June. The most important factor responsible for qualitative and quantitative structure of seed pool in pellets is the time when pellets were regurgitated. The type and availability of food determines the number and species structure of dispersed seeds. The comparison of the species structure of the seed pool in pellets and of the herb layer under the breeding colonies showed that the rook could effectively disperse seeds of weeds, meadow and ruderal species, that could germinate under the dense canopy of trees at the studied sites.