Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Renewable Natural Resources

Document Type



With the ongoing advance of the agricultural frontier in the Amazon basin, it is inevitable that heterogeneous landscapes will play a key role in conservation. These landscapes are mostly composed of patchworks of small forest fragments, secondary forests and roads. Conservation, however must take species interactions into consideration as they play a pivotal part the maintenance of several biological processes in the tropics. One of the most conspicuous interspecific interactions are seen in mixed-species flocks of birds, which in the Amazon, represent one of the best organized systems of bird aggregations. In this research, I assess how flock spatial behavior and species compositions are affected by changes in habitat structure. I followed 29 mixed-species flocks in different landscapes types such as secondary forests, forest fragments of 10 and 100 ha, and mixes of primary and secondary forest patches. As flocks foraged through their territories, I recorded their species composition every 30 minutes and georeferenced their movements every 30 seconds. Flocks spatial behavior was severely affected by anthropogenic features such as forest edges and secondary forests as flocks respond strongly to vegetation height. Using step-selection models, it was possible to reproduce flock movements and show that they prefer taller vegetation and lower areas of topography such as stream valleys. Due to this behavior, flocks avoided areas where canopy height was below 15 meters, and extensive areas of secondary below this height hold unstable flocks that do not persist for long periods. The ones that persisted showed home ranges that were much larger than what was observed in primary forest. Time spent in secondary forest was dependent on vegetation height, but not area, which seems to be shaped by intraspecific interactions. Flock social structure is also severely affected by habitat structure. Flock species richness did not show a predictable pattern, but participation was negatively affected. In fact, our data indicates that flock social structure may take longer to recover than spatial behavior. Assessing a 30-year mist-net capture dataset, we were able to determine that indeed, decreased species participation seems to be a more important driver in flock dissolution than local extinction.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Stouffer, Philip C