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Ostrich: Journal of African Ornithology

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The influence of vegetation structure on bird communities in a Karoo village, South Africa

A Schwarzenberger, WRJ Dean

Abstract


We surveyed the bird species richness and abundance at 12 sites in gardens and four sites in natural woodlands at Prince Albert, Western Cape, South Africa, over a two-month period, from 14 September to 15 November 1999. Bird numbers were estimated using point counts. Of a total of 75 bird species recorded, 34 species occurred in both garden and natural sites, 23 species only in gardens and 18 species only in natural woodland. The sites in natural habitats had the greatest similarity between species. The commonest species nesting in gardens during this study was the Cape Sparrow (Passer melanurus), followed by the Laughing Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis), and Greater Striped Swallow (Hirundo cucullata). Bar-throated Apalis (Apalis thoracica), Namaqua Warbler (Phragmacia substriata), Fiscal Flycatcher (Sigelus silens) and Common Fiscal (Lanius collaris) nests were only observed at the natural sites. Southern Double-collared Sunbird (Cinnyris chalybea) and Cape White-eye (Zosterops capensis) nested in both natural and garden sites. Tree hole-nesting species were rare in both gardens and natural woodland, but this reflects the paucity of suitable sites rather than the rarity of the species per se. With the exception of two sites that lacked nectarivores, all foraging guilds were represented at all sites. There was a marked difference in numbers of insectivorous, granivorous and omnivorous species between the natural woodland sites and the garden sites. The gardens showed a gradient in species richness from the gardens with structurally simple vegetation (bare ground) through to the richest species assemblages in the structurally most diverse habitats (trees). However, this gradient was less clear than expected. Structurally fairly simple vegetation (but abundant ‘flowers') had species numbers almost as high as the woodland sites, and higher than the garden tree sites.



(Ostrich: 2003 74(3&4): 209–216)



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