Biological Invasions

, Volume 19, Issue 5, pp 1421–1430 | Cite as

Competitive advantages of the red-billed leiothrix (Leiothrix lutea) invading a passerine community in Europe

  • Pedro Filipe Pereira
  • Carlos Godinho
  • Maria João Vila-Viçosa
  • Paulo Gama Mota
  • Rui Lourenço
Original Paper


The establishment of an introduced species is an important step of the invasion pathway. Often species become established because of their superior competitiveness over the native community or by occupying empty niches. Recently, the red-billed leiothrix Leiothrix lutea has become established in some European natural-woods, which can be quite relevant for nature conservation considering its position among the seven exotic bird species with highest negative impact in bird communities. We assessed which European-native species are more likely to compete with the leiothrix (i.e. potential competitors) based on their structural size and diet composition. Also, we evaluated the competitive advantages of the leiothrix, relatively to its potential competitors, that may allow its successful establishment, considering two approaches: exploratory behaviour and foraging morphology. Two species showed great similarity in structural size with the leiothrix, and also presented great similarity in diet composition, which makes them potential competitors: the robin Erithacus rubecula and the blackcap Sylvia atricapilla. The exploratory behaviour of the leiothrix did not differ from those of its potential competitors. However, the leiothrix presented more efficient foraging morphology than their potential competitors. Our results support the hypothesis of an establishment process by competitive advantage over native species rather than an opportunistic occupation of an empty ecological niche. The establishment of the leiothrix in European natural-habitats, and not in highly disturbed habitats as other invasive species, may constitute a new challenge for conservation.


Competition hypothesis Erithacus rubecula Establishment Opportunistic hypothesis Sylvia atricapilla 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Center in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources (CIBIO)University of PortoVairãoPortugal
  2. 2.Department of Life SciencesUniversity of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal
  3. 3.Labor-Laboratory of Ornithology, Instituto de Ciências Agrárias e Ambientais Mediterrânicas (ICAAM)Universidade de ÉvoraÉvoraPortugal
  4. 4.Victor Caeiro Laboratory of Parasitology, Departamento de Medicina Veterinária, ECT, Instituto de Ciências Agrárias e Ambientais Mediterrânicas (ICAAM)Universidade de ÉvoraÉvoraPortugal

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