Nest sites selection by sympatric cavity-nesting birds in miombo woodlands

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 15
  • Abstract:

    Deforestation and habitat fragmentation have long been known as drivers of wildlife depletion but information on their specific impacts on cavity-nesting birds in the miombo woodlands has been lacking. A comparative study of disturbed and undisturbed sites was conducted in miombo woodlands of Zambia to assess impacts of environmental stressors on birds. Foot patrols were employed to locate, identify and count host trees and cavities for cavity-nesting birds on twenty 200 m × 200 m sample plots. Undisturbed forests had three times more cavities (the nesting sites for birds), while there were 24.6% fewer abandoned cavities in undisturbed forests than in disturbed forests. The rate of cavity abandonment was about twice as high in human-dominated forests compared to undisturbed forests (61.3% c.f. 31.9%). Cavity-nesting birds preferred larger (> 36.0 cm diameter at breast height) and taller (> 5.0 m) trees for nest placement, especially in human-dominated forests. A number of cavity-nesting birds preferred Brachystegia spiciformis (zebrawood), Julbernadia paniculata (munsa), Parinari curatellifolia (mobola-plum) and Uapaca kirkiana (mahobohobo) as host trees to 14 other miombo tree species. Arnot’s Chat (Myrmecocichla arnoti) had a wider selection of host trees for cavity-nesting than the other 40 cavity-nesting birds in the study areas. Anthropogenic activities such as uncontrolled firewood collection, wild fires, logging, and land clearing for agriculture negatively influenced wood abundance and diversity, with potential implications for persistence of cavity-nesting birds. The negative impacts of anthropogenic activities could be counteracted by conservation strategies such as implementation of sound forest policies, integrative land use practices, sustainable livelihood security and stakeholders’ awareness of the need to safeguard forest-dependent avifauna. Conservation implications: This comparative study unravels specific anthropogenic impacts on the cavity-nesting birds in the miombo woodlands, which would be relevant for designing and implementing targeted biodiversity conservation interventions against negative local environmental values and attitudes that support rural development on the expense of conservation of biodiversity such as birds.