Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 315–329 | Cite as

Exotic trees can sustain native birds in urban woodlands

  • Emily R. Gray
  • Yolanda van HeezikEmail author


Native landscaping has been proposed as a means of increasing native bird diversity and abundance in urban landscapes. However residents’ preferences for vegetation are such that exotic plants are often preferred over natives. We investigated the extent to which native birds foraged in three common native and three exotic tree species in mixed urban woodland during four seasons. We predicted that native birds would spend more time foraging in native trees, and that food resources provided by deciduous exotic trees would be more seasonal than those provided by non-deciduous natives. Native birds spent a lot of time foraging in two of the native tree species, but very little time in native red beech (Nothofagus fusca). They used exotic oak (Quercus robur) throughout the year, and sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) seasonally. Oak and European beech (Fagus sylvatica) were used by the largest number of species overall, because they attracted both native and exotic birds. With the exception of tree fuchsia (Fuschia excorticata), which produces large volumes of nectar followed by fruits, all tree species were sources of invertebrates for insectivorous feeding. Seasonality of use was high only in sycamore, indicating limited support for our second prediction. We show that being native doesn’t necessarily entail being a good food source for native birds, and popular landscaping exotic species, such as oak, provide foraging opportunities across all seasons.


Non-native Alien Introduced Insectivore Trees Urban forest Behavioural flexibility 



We thank the Otago branch of the New Zealand Federation of Graduate Women for monetary support, the Ross Creek Charitable Trust, the Dunedin Botanical Gardens, Dunedin City Council and Alistair Senior and Sheena Townsend for statistical advice.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand

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