Biological Invasions

, Volume 19, Issue 5, pp 1547–1563 | Cite as

Patterns and mechanisms of invasive plant impacts on North American birds: a systematic review

  • Scott B. NelsonEmail author
  • Jaime J. Coon
  • Courtney J. Duchardt
  • Jason D. Fischer
  • Samniqueka J. Halsey
  • Adam J. Kranz
  • Christine M. Parker
  • Sarah C. Schneider
  • Timothy M. Swartz
  • James R. Miller
Original Paper


Understanding how invasive plants affect biodiversity is a crucial conservation need. Numerous studies examine impacts of invasions on birds, but trends in these effects have not been synthesized. We reviewed 128 studies from North America to quantify the frequency of positive, negative, and neutral (non-significant) effects of invasive plants on avian ecology, and then evaluated support for proposed mechanisms of impacts. Our frequency-based approach enabled us to draw value from the full breadth of available literature, including articles that do not provide information necessary for meta-analyses and articles examining understudied phenomena. Total avian abundance and prevalence of individual bird species were usually unaffected by invasion, with 48.9 and 57.2% of tests showing neutral results, respectively. Avian richness decreased with invasion in 41.3% of tests. Although birds often preferred nesting in invasive vegetation (45.0% of tests), effects on nest survival were typically neutral (57.9%). Multiple metrics (e.g. body condition, fledgling survival) have received scant attention. Some of the patterns we highlight differ across ecological contexts, emphasizing the need to understand impact mechanisms. Several studies have directly linked invasion impacts to altered nest-site availability, habitat heterogeneity, and food supplies. There is mixed evidence that plant architecture impacts nest-site selection and nest predation. Our review highlights the nonuniform consequences of biological invasions. The high frequency of reported neutral effects suggests that invasions often have minimal impacts on birds, but positive and negative impacts certainly can arise. Managers considering eradicating invasive plants for avian conservation should monitor impacts locally to determine whether eradication will be beneficial.


Avian ecology Biological invasions Habitat selection Habitat structure Nest predation Trophic effects 



Foremost, we would like to thank the many investigators whose investments of time and energy in collecting and publishing the reviewed data made this manuscript possible. Thank you to T.J. Benson for statistical advice, to C.R. Maresh for assistance with literature review, and to the “Bird Lab” avian discussion group at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for suggestions. E. Jongejans and two anonymous reviewers provided helpful comments to improve the manuscript. This material is based upon work that is partially supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under Award No. ILLU-875-918.

Author contributions

SBN wrote the manuscript, created online supplements, and conducted statistical analyses; SBN and JJC created the figures; SCS, SBN, CJD, JDF, CMP, and JRM designed the study; SBN, JJC, CJD, JDF, SJH, AJK, CMP, SCS, and TMS reviewed articles; SBN, JRM, JJC, TMS, CJD, AJK, and SJH edited the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest


Supplementary material

10530_2017_1377_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (568 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 567 kb)
10530_2017_1377_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (120 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 119 kb)
10530_2017_1377_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (884 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (PDF 884 kb)
10530_2017_1377_MOESM4_ESM.pdf (210 kb)
Supplementary material 4 (PDF 209 kb)


  1. Ausprey IJ, Rodewald AD (2011) Postfledging survivorship and habitat selection across a rural-to-urban landscape gradient. Auk 128:293–302CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bakker KK, Higgins KF (2009) Planted grasslands and native sod prairie: equivalent habitat for grassland birds? West N Am Nat 69:235–242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baldwin JR, Lovvorn JR (1994) Expansion of seagrass habitat by the exotic Zostera japonica, and its use by dabbling ducks and brant in Boundary Bay, British Columbia. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 103:119–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Benoit LK, Askins RA (1999) Impact of the spread of Phragmites on the distribution of birds in Connecticut tidal marshes. Wetlands 19:194–208CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Borgmann KL, Rodewald AD (2004) Nest predation in an urbanizing landscape: the role of exotic shrubs. Ecol Appl 14:1757–1765CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brand LA, Noon BR (2011) Seasonal fecundity and source-sink status of shrub-nesting birds in a southwestern riparian corridor. Wilson J Ornithol 123:48–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brand LA, White GC, Noon BR (2008) Factors influencing species richness and community composition of breeding birds in a desert riparian corridor. Condor 110:199–210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Caves EM, Jennings SB, HilleRisLambers J, Tewksbury JJ, Rogers HS (2013) Natural experiment demonstrates that bird loss leads to cessation of dispersal of native seeds from intact to degraded forests. PLoS ONE. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0065618 PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  9. Cerasale DJ, Guglielmo CG (2010) An integrative assessment of the effects of tamarisk on stopover ecology of a long-distance migrant along the San Pedro River, Arizona. Auk 127:636–646CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chapman RN, Engle DM, Masters RE, Leslie DM (2004) Grassland vegetation and bird communities in the southern Great Plains of North America. Agric Ecosyst Environ 104:577–585CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cook LF, Toft CA (2005) Dynamics of extinction: population decline in the colonially nesting tricolored blackbird Agelaius tricolor. Bird Conserv Int 15:73–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Coppedge BR, Engle DM, Masters RE, Gregory MS (2001) Avian response to landscape change in fragmented southern Great Plains grasslands. Ecol Appl 11:47–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cox WA, Thompson FR, Cox AS, Faaborg J (2014) Post-fledging survival in passerine birds and the value of post-fledging studies to conservation. J Wildl Manag 78:183–193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Davis MA (2009) Invasion biology. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  15. Davis SK, Duncan DC (1999) Grassland songbird occurrence in native and crested wheatgrass pastures of southern Saskatchewan. Stud Avian Biol Ser 19:211–218Google Scholar
  16. Davis MA, Chew MK, Hobbs RJ, Lugo AE, Ewel JJ, Vermeij GJ, Brown JH, Rosenzweig ML, Gardener MR, Carroll SP, Thompson K, Pickett STA, Stromberg JC, Del Tredici P, Suding KN, Eherenfeld JG, Grime JP, Mascaro J, Briggs JC (2011) Don’t judge species by their origins. Nature 474:153–154CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Fischer RA, Valente JJ, Guilfoyle MP, Kaller MD, Jackson SS, Ratti JT (2012) Bird community response to vegetation cover and composition in riparian habitats dominated by Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia). Northwest Sci 86:39–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fisher RJ, Davis SK (2011) Post-fledging dispersal, habitat use, and survival of Sprague’s pipits: are planted grasslands a good substitute for native? Biol Conserv 144:263–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Flanders AA, Kuvlesky WP, Ruthven DC, Zaiglin RE, Bingham RL, Fulbright TE, Hernandez F, Brennan LA (2006) Effects of invasive exotic grasses on South Texas rangeland breeding birds. Auk 123:171–182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. George AD, O’Connell TJ, Hickman KR, Leslie DM Jr (2013) Food availability in exotic grasslands: a potential mechanism for depauperate breeding assemblages. Wilson J Ornithol 125:526–533CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gifford KL, Armacost JW Jr (2012) Year-round bird use of monotypic stands of the Chinese tallow tree, Triadica sebifera, in southeast Texas. Condor 114:689–697CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gleditsch JM, Carlo TA (2011) Fruit quantity of invasive shrubs predicts the abundance of common native avian frugivores in central Pennsylvania. Divers Distrib 17:244–253CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gleditsch JM, Carlo TA (2014) Living with aliens: effects of invasive shrub honeysuckles on avian nesting. PLoS ONE. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0107120 PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  24. Grant TA, Madden EM, Shaffer TL, Pietz PJ, Berkey GB, Kadrmas NJ (2006) Nest survival of clay-colored and vesper sparrows in relation to woodland edge in mixed-grass prairies. J Wildl Manag 70:691–701CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Greenberg CH, Walter ST (2010) Fleshy fruit removal and nutritional composition of winter-fruiting plants: a comparison of non-native invasive and native species. Nat Area J 30:312–321CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hickman KR, Farley GH, Channell R, Steier JE (2006) Effects of old world bluestem (Bothriochloa ischaemum) on food availability and avian community composition within the mixed-grass prairie. Southwest Nat 51:524–530CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hinam HL, Sealy SG, Underwood TJ (2004) Ruby-throated hummingbird, Archilochus colubris, entanglements in burdock, Arctium spp., at Delta Marsh Manitoba. Can Field Nat 118:85–89CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hoover JP, Reetz MJ (2006) Brood parasitism increases provisioning rate, and reduces offspring recruitment and adult return rates, in a cowbird host. Oecologia 149:165–173CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Hovick TJ, Miller JR (2013) Broad-scale heterogeneity influences nest selection by brown-headed cowbirds. Landscape Ecol 28:1493–1503CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hudon J, Derbyshire D, Leckie S, Flinn T (2013) Diet-induced plumage erythrism in baltimore orioles as a result of the spread of introduced shrubs. Wilson J Ornithol 125:88–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hunter WC, Ohmart RD, Anderson BW (1988) Use of exotic saltcedar (Tamarix chinensis) by birds in arid riparian systems. Condor 90:113–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ingold JL, Craycraft MJ (1983) Avian frugivory on honeysuckle (Lonicera) in southwestern Ohio in fall. Ohio J Sci 83:256–258Google Scholar
  33. Johnson DH, Igl LD (2001) Area requirements of grassland birds: a regional perspective. Auk 118:24–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Jones ZF, Bock CE (2005) The Botteri’s sparrow and exotic Arizona grasslands: an ecological trap or habitat regained? Condor 107:731–741CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Jones TM, Rodewald AD, Shustack DP (2010) Variation in plumage coloration of northern cardinals in urbanizing landscapes. Wilson J Ornithol 122:326–333CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Karp DS, Mendenhall CD, Sandi RF, Chaumont N, Ehrlich PR, Hadly EA, Daily GC (2013) Forest bolsters bird abundance, pest control and coffee yield. Ecol Lett 16:1339–1347CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Keller GS, Avery JD (2014) Avian use of isolated cottonwood, tamarisk, and residential patches of habitat during migration on the high plains of New Mexico. Southwest Nat 59:263–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kennedy PL, DeBano SJ, Bartuszevige AM, Lueders AS (2009) Effects of native and non-native grassland plant communities on breeding passerine birds: implications for restoration of northwest bunchgrass prairie. Restor Ecol 17:515–525CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Klaus N, Keyes T (2007) Effect of two native invasive tree species on upland pine breeding bird communities in Georgia. Wilson J Ornithol 119:737–741CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lafleur NE, Rubega MA, Elphick CS (2007) Invasive fruits, novel foods, and choice: an investigation of European starling and American robin frugivory. Wilson J Ornithol 119:429–438CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Leston LFV, Rodewald AD (2006) Are urban forests ecological traps for understory birds? An examination using northern cardinals. Biol Conserv 131:566–574CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Litt AR, Cord EE, Fulbright TE, Schuster GL (2014) Effects of invasive plants on arthropods. Conserv Biol 28:1532–1549CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Lloyd JD, Martin TE (2005) Reproductive success of chestnut-collared longspurs in native and exotic grassland. Condor 107:363–374CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Lyons TP, Miller JR, Debinski DM, Engle DM (2015) Predator identity influences the effect of habitat management on nest predation. Ecol Appl 25:1596–1605CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Macarthur R, Macarthur JW (1961) On bird species-diversity. Ecology 42:594–598CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Maddox JD, Wiedenmann RN (2005) Nesting of birds in wetlands containing purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) and cattail (Typha spp.). Nat Area J 25:369–373Google Scholar
  47. Martin TE (1993) Nest predation and nest sites—new perspectives on old patterns. Bioscience 43:523–532CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. McAdoo JK, Longland WS, Evans RA (1989) Nongame bird community responses to sagebrush invasion of crested wheatgrass seedings. J Wildl Manag 53:494–502CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. McCary MA, Mores R, Farfan MA, Wise DH (2016) Invasive plants have different effects on trophic structure of green and brown food webs in terrestrial ecosystems: a meta-analysis. Ecol Lett 19:328–335CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. McCusker CE, Ward MP, Brawn JD (2010) Seasonal responses of avian communities to invasive bush honeysuckles (Lonicera spp.). Biol Invasions 12:2459–2470CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Murtaugh PA (2002) Journal quality, effect size, and publication bias in meta-analysis. Ecology 83:1162–1166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Nordby JC, Cohen AN, Beissinger SR (2009) Effects of a habitat-altering invader on nesting sparrows: an ecological trap? Biol Invasions 11:565–575CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Ortega YK, McKelvey KS, Six DL (2006) Invasion of an exotic forb impacts reproductive success and site fidelity of a migratory songbird. Oecologia 149:340–351CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Ortega YK, Benson A, Greene E (2014a) Invasive plant erodes local song diversity in a migratory passerine. Ecology 95:458–465CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. Ortega YK, Greenwood LF, Callaway RM, Pearson DE (2014b) Different responses of congeneric consumers to an exotic food resource: who gets the novel resource prize? Biol Invasions 16:1757–1767CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Osborne DC, Sparling DW, Hopkins RL II (2012) Influence of conservation reserve program mid-contract management and landscape composition on northern bobwhite in tall fescue monocultures. J Wildl Manag 76:566–574CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Owen JC, Sogge MK, Kern MD (2005) Habitat and sex differences in physiological condition of breeding southwestern willow flycatchers (Empidonax traillii extimus). Auk 122:1261–1270CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Pyšek P, Jarosik V, Hulme PE, Pergl J, Hejda M, Schaffner U, Vilà M (2012) A global assessment of invasive plant impacts on resident species, communities and ecosystems: the interaction of impact measures, invading species’ traits and environment. Glob Change Biol 18:1725–1737CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Reynolds TD, Trost CH (1980) The response of native vertebrate populations to crested wheatgrass planting and grazing by sheep. J Range Manag 33:122–125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Robertson BA, Hutto RL (2006) A framework for understanding ecological traps and an evaluation of existing evidence. Ecology 87:1075–1085CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  61. Rodewald AD (2009) Urban-associated habitat alteration promotes brood parasitism of Acadian flycatchers. J Field Ornithol 80:234–241CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Rodewald AD, Shustack DP, Hitchcock LE (2010) Exotic shrubs as ephemeral ecological traps for nesting birds. Biol Invasions 12:33–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Rodewald AD, Shustack DP, Jones TM (2011) Dynamic selective environments and evolutionary traps in human-dominated landscapes. Ecology 92:1781–1788CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  64. Rosenstock SS, van Riper C (2001) Breeding bird responses to juniper woodland expansion. J Range Manag 54:226–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Rotenberry JT, Wiens JA (1980) Habitat structure, patchiness, and avian communities in North American steppe vegetation—a multivariate analysis. Ecology 61:1228–1250CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Schirmel J, Bundschuh M, Entling MH, Kowarik I, Buchholz S (2016) Impacts of invasive plants on resident animals across ecosystems, taxa, and feeding types: a global assessment. Glob Change Biol 22:594–603CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Schlaepfer MA, Sax DF, Olden JD (2011) The potential conservation value of non-native species. Conserv Biol 25:428–437CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  68. Schlossberg S, King DI (2010) Effects of invasive woody plants on avian nest site selection and nesting success in shrublands. Anim Conserv 13:286–293CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Schmidt KA, Whelan CJ (1999) Effects of exotic Lonicera and Rhamnus on songbird nest predation. Conserv Biol 13:1502–1506CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Schmidt KA, Nelis LC, Briggs N, Ostfeld RS (2005) Invasive shrubs and songbird nesting success: effects of climate variability and predator abundance. Ecol Appl 15:258–265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Schneider SC, Miller JR (2014) Response of avian communities to invasive vegetation in urban forest fragments. Condor 116:459–471CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Shackelford N, Hobbs RJ, Heller NE, Hallett LM, Seastedt TR (2013) Finding a middle-ground: the native/non-native debate. Biol Conserv 158:55–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Simberloff D, Alexander J et al (2011) Non-natives: 141 scientists object. Nature 475:36CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  74. Simberloff D, Martin JL, Genovesi P, Maris V, Wardle DA, Aronson J, Courchamp F, Galil B, García-Berthou E, Pascal M, Pyšek P, Sousa R, Tabacchi E, Vilà M (2013) Impacts of biological invasions: what’s what and the way forward. Trends Ecol Evol 28:58–66CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  75. Smith DM, Finch DM (2014) Use of native and nonnative nest plants by riparian-nesting birds along two streams in New Mexico. River Res Appl 30:1134–1145CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Smith RJ, Moore FR (2003) Arrival fat and reproductive performance in a long-distance passerine migrant. Oecologia 134:325–331CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  77. Smith DM, Finch DM, Hawksworth DL (2009) Black-chinned hummingbird nest-site selection and nest survival in response to fuel reduction in a southwestern riparian forest. Condor 111:641–652CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Smith SB, DeSando SA, Pagano T (2013) The value of native and invasive fruit-bearing shrubs for migrating songbirds. Northeast Nat 20:171–184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Stiles EW (1982) Expansions of mockingbird and multiflora rose in the Northeastern United States and Canada. Am Birds 36:358–364Google Scholar
  80. Stoleson SH, Finch DM (2001) Breeding bird use of and nesting success in exotic Russian olive in New Mexico. Wilson Bull 113:452–455CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Sutter GC, Brigham RM (1998) Avifaunal and habitat changes resulting from conversion of native prairie to crested wheat grass: patterns at songbird community and species levels. Can J Zool 76:869–875CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Szabo JK, Khwaja N, Garnett ST, Butchart SHM (2012) Global patterns and drivers of avian extinctions at the species and subspecies level. PLoS ONE. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0047080 Google Scholar
  83. Taylor RV (2003) Factors influencing expansion of the breeding distribution of Bewick’s wren into riparian forests of the Rio Grande in central New Mexico. Southwest Nat 48:373–382CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. van Riper C, Paxton KL, O’Brien C, Shafroth PB, McGrath LJ (2008) Rethinking avian response to Tamarix on the lower Colorado River: a threshold hypothesis. Restor Ecol 16:155–167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Vilà M, Espinar JL, Hejda M, Hulme PE, Jarosik V, Maron JL, Pergl J, Schaffner U, Sun Y, Pyšek P (2011) Ecological impacts of invasive alien plants: a meta-analysis of their effects on species, communities and ecosystems. Ecol Lett 14:702–708CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  86. Vitousek PM, Dantonio CM, Loope LL, Westbrooks R (1996) Biological invasions as global environmental change. Am Sci 84:468–478Google Scholar
  87. Walker HA (2008) Floristics and physiognomy determine migrant landbird response to Tamarisk (Tamarix ramosissima) invasion in riparian areas. Auk 125:520–531CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Whelan CJ, Willson MF (1994) Fruit choice in migrating North American birds: field and aviary experiments. Oikos 71:137–151CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Wilde SB, Murphy TM, Hope CP, Habrun SK, Kempton J, Birrenkott A, Wiley F, Bowerman WW, Lewitus AJ (2005) Avian vacuolar myelinopathy linked to exotic aquatic plants and a novel cyanobacterial species. Environ Toxicol 20:348–353CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  90. Wilson SD, Belcher JW (1989) Plant and bird communities of native prairie and introduced Eurasian vegetation in Manitoba, Canada. Conserv Biol 3:39–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Witmer MC (1996) Consequences of an alien shrub on the plumage coloration and ecology of cedar waxwings. Auk 113:735–743CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Yard HK, van Riper C, Brown BT, Kearsley MJ (2004) Diets of insectivorous birds along the Colorado River in Grand Canyon, Arizona. Condor 106:106–115CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Scott B. Nelson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jaime J. Coon
    • 1
  • Courtney J. Duchardt
    • 1
  • Jason D. Fischer
    • 2
  • Samniqueka J. Halsey
    • 2
  • Adam J. Kranz
    • 1
  • Christine M. Parker
    • 1
  • Sarah C. Schneider
    • 2
  • Timothy M. Swartz
    • 1
  • James R. Miller
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Natural Resources and Environmental SciencesUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA
  2. 2.Program in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation BiologyUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA

Personalised recommendations