Date of this Version
Ecology and Evolution. 2022;12:e9192. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.9192
Habitat loss due to increasing anthropogenic disturbance is the major driver for bird population declines across the globe. Within the Eastern Ghats of India, shrubland bird communities are threatened by shrinking of suitable habitats due to increased anthropogenic disturbance and climate change. The development of an effective habitat management strategy is hampered by the absence of data for this bird community. To address this knowledge gap, we examined foraging sites for 14 shrubland bird species, including three declining species, in three study areas representing the shrubland type of forest community in the Eastern Ghats. We recorded microhabitat features within an 11 m radius of observed foraging points and compared these data with similar data from random plots. We used chi-square to test the association between plant species and bird species for sites where they were observed foraging. We observed significant differences between foraging sites of all the study species and random plots, thus indicating selection for foraging habitat. Using linear discriminant analysis, we found that the microhabitat features important for the bird species were shrub density, vegetational height, vertical foliage stratification, grass height, and percent rock cover. Our results show that diet guild and foraging strata influence the foraging microhabitat selection of a species (e.g., ground-foraging species differed significantly from other species). Except for two species, all focal birds were associated with at least one plant species. The plant-bird association was based on foraging, structural, or behavioral preferences. Several key factors affecting foraging habitat such as shrub density can be actively managed at the local scale. Strategic and selective harvesting of forest products and a spatially and temporally controlled livestock grazing regime may allow regeneration of scrubland and create conditions favorable to birds.