Digestive efficiency of indigenous and invasive avian species fed fruit of invasive alien plants in South Africa
Many highly invasive plant species produce fleshy fruit that are consumed and dispersed by frugivorous birds. However, little is known about assimilation efficiency of invasive fruit by indigenous and invasive avian species. We investigated whether indigenous Knysna (Tauraco corythaix) and Purple-crested (Gallirex porphyreolophus) Turacos and invasive alien Rose-ringed Parakeets (Psittacula krameri) met their energy demands when fed fruits of four fleshyfruited invasive alien plant species: Solanum mauritianum, Cinnamomum camphora, Psidium guajava and Morus alba. Birds were fed single-fruit diets for two consecutive days and energetic parameters were calculated for all fruit diets. Our results showed that generally both invasive and indigenous avian species managed to gain their daily energy requirements from fruits of the four respective invasive plants, suggesting that they can meet their energetic demands by feeding on them only. The exception was P. krameri, which did not feed on S. mauritianum fruit. These findings may explain why fruits of invasive alien plants are attractive to most avian frugivores and highlight the role of avian frugivores in their dispersal.
Keywords: assimilation efficiency, fleshy fruit, frugivorous bird species, South Africa