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Bird species use of Tapinanthus dodoneifolius mistletoes parasitising African locust bean trees Parkia biglobosa in Amurum Forest Reserve, Nigeria

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Abstract

The relationship between mistletoes and their host trees constitutes one of the unique host–parasite interactions in ecosystems. Most West African studies have reported on the parasitic nature of the relationship between Tapinanthus dodoneifolius mistletoes and Parkia biglobosa trees. However, there is little on bird species’ use and subsequent dispersal of the mistletoe on P. biglobosa, and consequently, we investigated aspects of this relationship in the present study. We conducted our study in Amurum Forest Reserve, located in the central part of Nigeria, from May to September 2017. The study area consists of a mosaic of savanna, gallery forest, and rocky outcrops. Of the bird community in this area, the yellow-fronted Tinkerbird Pogoniulus chrysoconus had the highest number of visits to T. dodoneifolius fruits, while the Senegal Eremomela Eremomela pusilla spent the most time foraging on the fruits. Four sunbird species were recorded feeding on T. dodoneifolius flowers for nectar; all but the Copper Sunbird Cinnyris cupreus were observed opening the flowers of T. dodoneifolius. Other bird species were recorded foraging on insects on T. dodoneifolius, and some simply perching on twigs or pecking on mistletoe fruits. This was a mutualistic relationship between the respective bird species and the mistletoe. This indirectly benefitted the parasitised host by attracting potential pollinators, seed dispersers, and insectivores for the host, hence, improving the rate of visitation to the host. These patterns of visitation behaviours highlighted the ecological importance of T. dodoneifolius within the reserve, particularly in enhancing the survival of other taxa within the reserve. Findings from this study contribute to developing more-nuanced conservation strategies for mixed high savannah habitat types across the tropics.

Zusammenfassung

Vögel nutzen Tapinanthus dodoneifolius-Misteln, die an Johannisbrotbäumen Parkia biglobosa im Amurum-Waldreservat, Nigeria, parasitieren

Die Beziehung zwischen Misteln und ihren Wirtsbäumen ist eine der einzigartigen Wirt-Parasit-Interaktionen in Ökosystemen. Die meisten westafrikanischen Studien haben die parasitären Aspekte der Beziehung zwischen Tapinanthus dodoneifolius-Misteln und den Bäumen der Parkia biglobosa untersucht, aber nur wenige die Nutzung der Misteln durch Vögel und die daraus resultierende Verbreitung der Misteln. Deshalb haben wir uns in unserer Arbeit auf diesen Aspekt der Beziehung konzentriert. Wir führten unsere Untersuchung von Mai bis September 2017 im Amurum Wald-Reservat im zentralen Teil Nigerias durch. Das Untersuchungsgebiet besteht aus einem Mosaik aus Savanne, Galeriewald und felsigen Aufschlüssen. Von den Vögeln dort besuchte der Gelbstirn-Bartvogel Pogoniulus chrysoconus die Früchte der Misteln am häufigsten, während der Graukappeneremomela Eremomela pusilla die meiste Zeit mit dem Fressen der Früchte verbrachte. Vier Nektarvögel-Arten wurden bei der Nektaraufnahme an den Mistelblüten beobachtet, wobei alle außer dem Kupfernektarvogel Cinnyris cupreus dabei gesehen wurden, wie sie Blüten der T. dodoneifolius-Misteln öffneten. Andere Vogelarten wurden beim Verzehr von Insekten auf den Misteln beobachtet, während einige nur einfach auf Zweigen hockten oder auf Mistelfrüchten herumpickten. All dies war eine für beide nutzbringende Beziehung zwischen der Mistel und der jeweiligen Vogelart; dem parasitierten Wirt kam zugute, dass potenzielle Bestäuber, Samenverbreiter und Insektenfresser für ihn angelockt wurden und damit die Rate der Besuche beim Wirt erhöhte. Diese Muster des Besuchsverhaltens unterstreichen die ökologische Bedeutung von T. dodoneifolius innerhalb des Reservats, insbesondere durch die Erhöhung der Überlebenschancen anderer Taxa im Reservat. Die Ergebnisse dieser Studie tragen dazu bei, differenziertere Schutzstrategien für gemischte Hochsavannen-Habitattypen in den Tropen zu entwickeln.

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to the A.P. Leventis Ornithological Research Institute, Jos (NI), for study permission, sponsorship, and overall support. Thanks to Arin Izang for assistance with fieldwork. CTD thanks the National Research Foundation (ZA, Grant 98404) and the University of KwaZulu-Natal (ZA) for support. We thank the reviewers for their constructive comments that improved the manuscript.

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Raji, I.A., Chaskda, A.A., Manu, S.A. et al. Bird species use of Tapinanthus dodoneifolius mistletoes parasitising African locust bean trees Parkia biglobosa in Amurum Forest Reserve, Nigeria. J Ornithol 162, 1129–1140 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10336-021-01890-0

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