Ostrich: Journal of African Ornithology

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Nest niche dynamics of Meyer’s Parrot Poicephalus meyeri in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Rutledge S Boyes, Michael R Perrin


Meyer’s Parrot Poicephalus meyeri is the only cavity-nesting bird species that breeds during winter in the Okavango Delta. This is facilitated by exclusive access to arthropod larvae incubating inside and feeding on fruits and pods in their diet. To minimise predation risk and overcome low overnight temperatures they have specialised, non-random nest cavity preferences that restrict them to 4.5% of the available nest cavities in the study area. Here we evaluated the nest niche of Meyer’s Parrot by studying the nest tree preferences and ecological context of all nest cavities to determine factors that may restrict breeding success in disturbed or altered habitat. Although specific nest tree preferences were significantly different between host tree species, Meyer’s Parrot preferred trees greater than 14 m in height that were in relatively poor condition (e.g. portion of the canopy dead). A comparison of nest tree characteristics (n = 75) and the availability of these tree specifications in a representative sample of the different habitat types (n = 1 129) within the sample area indicated that Meyer’s Parrot are dependent on riverine forest, Acacia–Combretum marginal woodland and dry mopane woodland for nesting opportunities. Disturbance to hardwood trees by African elephants Loxodonta africana and fungal attack (e.g. Coriolus versicolor) are likely important dynamics in supporting healthy Meyer’s Parrot populations and cavity-nesting bird communities.

OSTRICH 2010, 81(3): 233–242

AJOL African Journals Online