, Volume 11, Issue 6, pp 757-771

Competition between birds and mammals: A comparison of giving-up densities between crested larks and gerbils

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Abstract

We combined the concept of mechanisms of co-existence with the approach of giving-up densities to study inter-taxon competition between seed-eating birds and mammals. We measured feeding behaviour in food patches to define and study the guild of seed-eating vertebrates occupying sandy habitats at Bir Asluj, Negev Desert, Israel. Despite a large number of putatively granivorous rodents and birds at the site, two gerbil species (Allenby's gerbil, Gerbillus allenbyi, and the greater Egyptian gerbil, G. pyramidum) dominated nocturnal foraging, and a single bird species (crested lark, Galerida cristata) contributed all of the daytime foraging. We used giving-up densities to quantify foraging behaviour and foraging efficiencies. A low giving-up density demonstrates the ability of a forager to profitably harvest food at low abundances and to profitably utilize the foraging opportunities left behind by the less efficient forager. Gerbils had lower giving-up densities in the bush than open microhabitat, and lower giving-up densities in the semi-stabilized than stabilized sand habitats. Crested larks showed the opposite: lower giving-up densities in the open than bush, and on the stabilized than semi-stabilized sand habitats. Despite these patterns, gerbils had substantially lower giving-up densities than crested larks in both microhabitats, all sand habitats, and during each month. Several mechanisms may permit the crested lark to co-exist with the gerbils. Larks may be cream skimmers on the high spatial and temporal variability in seed abundances. Larks may rely on insects, fruit or smaller seeds. Or, larks may rely on adjacent rocky habitats.