Conservation of seed-dispersing migrant birds in Mediterranean habitats: Shedding light on patterns to preserve processes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Migratory frugivorous birds disperse the seeds of many plant species, forming mutualistic associations that render frugivores a priority for conservation in many habitats worldwide. We analysed the distribution of seed-dispersing frugivorous passerines in southern Spain, which is an important area for the conservation of European birds during winter. Frugivorous birds showed similar regional abundance and richness during four winters, although fruit availability changed among years. However, the spatial distribution of frugivorous birds in the area changed among years. These changes were principally determined by annual variation in the distribution of fruits in the area, revealing a clear ability of birds to track the distribution of fruits. The unpredictable distribution of fruits each year suggests that regional fruit crops, rather than selected habitat patches, need to be protected for the long-term conservation of frugivorous bird populations in wintering grounds. Remarkably, the distribution of frugivores was independent of forest development or general cover of shrubs, which helps to reconcile the protection of fruiting shrubs with forest cleaning, an usual management to prevent devastating summer fires that is destroying fleshy-fruited plant communities in many areas of southern Spain. Thus, leaving a part of the fruiting shrubs untouched when cleaning forest undergrowth will allow the settlement of frugivorous birds. Interestingly, both abundance and richness of frugivores decreased with elevation, probably as a consequence of impaired climatic conditions at high altitude, revealing the importance of lowland shrublands as wintering grounds for frugivorous birds. These habitats deserve special conservation efforts, as they are seriously threatened by the ongoing encroachment of agricultural and urban areas along the Mediterranean coasts.


  • J L Telleria
  • A Ramirz
  • Javier Perez-Tris
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Ecology


  • Mediterranean forests and shrublands, bird-fruit abundance correlations, conservation of frugivorous birds, spatio-temporal distribution, wintering habitats
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)493-502
JournalBiological Conservation
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: Animal Ecology (Closed 2011) (011012001)