Aspects of the feeding ecology of introduced Rose-ringed Parakeets Psittacula krameri in the urban landscape mosaic of Durban, KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa

Abstract

The Rose-ringed Parakeet Psittacula krameri is one of the world’s commonest invasive bird species and has established in the South African urban landscapes. However, relatively little is known about the feeding biology of parakeets here. We surveyed areas in eThekwini Municipality, Durban, South Africa, to determine their feeding sites and the related land-use types. Patterns of the association were explored using Correspondence Analysis to determine parakeets’ diet across seasons and interaction between different tree species fed on by parakeets and other bird species. Dietary items were determined visually using binoculars. We identified a total of 63 feeding sites with many in the urban built land-use cover type. The parakeets’ diet differed significantly across the seasons with spring accounting for 33% of annual food items. We identified 31 fruiting/flowering tree species fed on by the parakeets, with fleshy fruits and flowers accounting for 58% and 19%, respectively. Native tree species (63%) were mostly relied on when compared with non-native (27%). They also fed on carpenter ants Camponotus cinctellus which contributed 3% of their diet. The forest fever-berry Croton sylvaticus (fleshy fruits) and African star-chestnut Sterculia africana (flowers) were the most preferred tree species in autumn and summer. The observed number of bird species that communally fed with parakeets were significantly different across the sampled seasons. The diets for the Common Myna Acridotheres tristis and the Speckled Mousebird Colius striatus overlapped with parakeets for most tree species. Parakeets were observed actively feeding in the early mornings and late afternoons before roosting. Our study supports that parakeets are generalist-opportunistic feeders. The assessment of Rose-ringed Parakeets feeding ecology may help understand their potential impact on native tree and bird species within an urban landscape.

Zusammenfassung

Nahrungsökologische Aspekte eingeführter Halsbandsittiche Psittacula krameri im urbanen Landschaftmosaik Durbans, KwaZulu-Natal-Provinz, Südafrika

Der Halsbandsittich Psittacula krameri gehört zu den häufigsten invasiven Vogelarten der Welt und hat sich in den urbanen Landschaften Südafrikas angesiedelt. Jedoch ist nur vergleichsweise wenig über die Ernährung der Sittiche dort bekannt. Wir kartierten Gebiete in der Gemeinde eThekwini, Durban, Südafrika, um ihre Nahrungsplätze und die dazugehörigen Landnutzungsformen zu bestimmen. Die Muster dieser Zusammenhänge wurden mittels Korrespondenzanalysen untersucht, um den Speisezettel der Sittiche im Jahreslauf sowie Wechselwirkungen zwischen verschiedenen Baumarten zu ermitteln, welche den Sittichen und anderen Vogelarten als Nahrungsquelle dienen. Die Nahrungsbestandteile bestimmten wir auf Sicht mithilfe von Ferngläsern. Insgesamt konnten wir 63 Nahrungsplätze ausmachen, von denen viele im städtisch bebauten Landnutzungsbereich lagen. Die Nahrung der Sittiche wies signifikante jahreszeitliche Unterschiede auf, wobei 33% der jährlichen Nahrungsbestandteile auf das Frühjahr entfielen. Wir konnten 31 frucht- beziehungsweise blütentragende Baumarten als Nahrungspflanzen der Sittiche dokumentieren, wobei fleischige Früchte und Blüten jeweils 58% beziehungsweise 19% ausmachten. Einheimische Baumarten (63%) wurden im Vergleich zu nichtheimischen (27%) bevorzugt genutzt. Außerdem nahmen sie Rossameisen Camponotus cinctellus auf, welche 3% des Speiseplans ausmachten. Waldfeuerbeere Croton sylvaticus (fleischige Früchte) und Afrikanische Sternkastanie Sterculia africana (Blüten) waren im Herbst und im Sommer die bevorzugten Baumarten. Die festgestellte Anzahl der Vogelarten, welche in Gesellschaft der Sittiche Nahrung suchten, war zu den untersuchten Jahreszeiten signifikant verschieden. Die Nahrungsspektren von Hirtenmaina Acridotheres tristis und Braunflügel-Mausvogel Colius striatus überschnitten sich bezüglich der meisten Baumarten mit dem der Sittiche. Die Sittiche ließen sich frühmorgens und am Spätnachmittag vor dem Aufsuchen der Schlafplätze bei der aktiven Nahrungsaufnahme beobachten. Unsere Untersuchung bestätigt, dass es sich bei den Sittichen um opportunistische Nahrungsgeneralisten handelt. Dieser nahrungsökologische Befund könnte dabei helfen, die möglichen Auswirkungen der Halsbandsittiche auf heimische Baum- und Vogelarten in der urbanen Landschaft zu verstehen.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the National Research Foundation (NRF) (ZA), through its SARChI Chair Programme, and the DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology, the University of Stellenbosch for funding. We are grateful to the Ford Wildlife Foundation (ZA) for vehicle support throughout the study. We are thankful to the citizen scientists who provided information on feeding sites for parakeets. We are grateful to the management and residents of Mt. Edgecomb Country Club Estate for giving us access. The University of KwaZulu-Natal (ZA) is thanked for logistic and financial support. We are most grateful to the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments which improved the manuscript.

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Shivambu, T.C., Shivambu, N. & Downs, C.T. Aspects of the feeding ecology of introduced Rose-ringed Parakeets Psittacula krameri in the urban landscape mosaic of Durban, KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa. J Ornithol 162, 397–407 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10336-020-01841-1

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Keywords

  • Alien invasive species
  • Competition
  • Generalist species
  • Feeding patterns
  • Urban landscape