U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Why Birds Matter: Avian Ecological Function and Ecosystem Services. C.H. Şekercioğlu, D.G. Wenny, and C.J. Whelan, eds. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, USA. 2016. p.235-270.


Copyright 2016 The Authors.


Food webs developed under classical theoretical models often depict simplistic interactions among trophic levels linked by predation (Hairston et al. 1960). As a result, extensive research efforts have been devoted to studying predator-prey interactions, often ignoring the contribution of scavenging in food-web dynamics. However, recent advancements in food-web theory have recognized the widespread and critical role that scavenging plays in stabilizing food webs in ecosystems throughout the world, thus suggesting that previous models may have greatly underestimated the importance of scavenging in food web research ( Wilson and Wolkovich 2011; Barton et al. 2013). Such disregard for the importance of scavenging likely stems from a number of factors, such as human aversion to decomposing matter, difficulties in identifying scavenged versus depredated materials, and the fact that most species utilize carrion opportunistically (DeVault et al. 2003). Nonetheless, recent population declines of a number of obligate scavengers (e.g., vultures) have drawn international attention to this important group of species, and have sparked a renaissance in research on scavenging (Koenig 2006; Sekercioglu 2006; Ogada et al. 2012a; Moleón and Sanchez-Zapata 2015; Buechley and Şekercioğlu 2016a, 2016b; Ogada et al. 2016).

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