Riparian Birds in Alien Vegetation
Riparian thickets of East Africa harbor a large number of endemic animal and plant species, but also provide important ecosystem services for the human being settling along streams. This creates a conflicting situation between nature conservation and land-use activities. Today, most of this former pristine vegetation is highly degraded and became replaced by the invasive exotic Lantana camara shrub species. In this study, we analyze the movement behavior and habitat use of a diverse range of riparian bird species and model the habitat availability of each of these species. We selected the following four riparian bird species: Bare-eyed Thrush Turdus tephronotus, Rufous Chatterer Turdoides rubiginosus, Zanzibar Sombre Greenbul Andropadus importunus insularis, and the Kenyan endemic Hinde's Babbler Turdoides hindei. We collected telemetric data of 14 individuals during a 2 months radio-tracking campaign along the Nzeeu River in southeast Kenya. We found that (1) all four species had similar home-range sizes, all geographically restricted and nearby the river; (2) all species mainly use dense thicket, in particular the invasive L. camara; (3) human settlements were avoided by the bird individuals observed; (4) the birds’ movement, indicating foraging behavior, was comparatively slow within thickets, but significantly faster over open, agricultural areas; and (5) habitat suitability models underline the relevance of L. camara as suitable surrogate habitat for all understoreyed bird species, but also show that the clearance of thickets has led to a vanishing of large and interconnected thickets and thus might have negative effects on the population viability in the long run.