Avian use of introduced plants: Ornithologist records illuminate interspecific associations and research needs

Clare E. Aslan, Reimánek Marcel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Introduced species have the potential to impact processes central to tne organization of ecological communities. Although hundreds of nonnative plant species have naturalized, in. the United States, only a small, percentage of these have been studied in their new biotic communities. Their interactions with resident (native and introduced) bird species remain largely unexplored. As a group, citizen scientists such as ornithologists possess a wide range of experiences. They may offer insights into the prevalence and form of bird interactions with nonnative plants on a broad geographic scale. We surveyed 173 ornithologists from four U.S. states, asking them to report observations of bird interactions with nonnative plants. The primary goal of the survey was to obtain information useful in guiding future empirical research. In all, 1143 unique bird-plant interactions were reported, involving 99 plant taxa and 168 bird species. Forty-seven percent of reported interactions concerned potential dispersal (feeding on seeds or fruits). Remaining "habitat interactions" involved bird use of plants for nesting, perching, woodpecking, gleaning, and other activities. We utilized detrended correspondence analysis to ordinate birds with respect to the plants they reportedly utilize. Results illuminate the new guilds formed by these interactions. We assessed the existing level of knowledge about invasiveness of those plants reported most often in feeding interactions, identifying information gaps for biological invasions research priority. To exemplify the usefulness of citizen science data, we utilized survey results to guide field research on invasiveness in some of these plant species and observed both qualitatively and quantitatively strong agreement between survey reports and our empirical data. Questionnaire reports are therefore heuristically informative for the fields of both avian ecology and invasion biology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1005-1020
Number of pages16
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Birds
  • Citizen science
  • Guilds
  • Introduced plants
  • Invasive species
  • Mutualisms
  • Ornithologists
  • Questionnaire

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology


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