Interspecific Competition and Vertical Niche Partitioning in Fiji’s Forest Birds

Alivereti N. Naikatini, Gunnar Keppel, Gilianne Brodie, Sonia Kleindorfer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Charles Darwin proposed his ‘principle of divergence’ to account for changes in traits that could promote speciation and coexistence of diverse forms through occupation of different niches to reduce interspecific competition. We explore interspecific foraging behaviour overlap in Fiji’s forest birds, and address two main questions: (1) Is there vertical stratification of foraging behavior? and (2) Is there evidence of interspecific competition driving the differences in foraging behaviour? We explore these questions across three foraging guilds, nectarivores (three species), insectivores (two species), and omnivores (two species), and find vertical portioning of foraging in each group. To investigate the effect of interspecific competition, we compared foraging heights of the Orange-breasted Myzomela (Myzomela jugularis) honeyeater on Viti Levu Island (where it coexists with two other honeyeater species) and Leleuvia Island (no other honeyeater species). On the main island Viti Levu, we found evidence for vertical niche partitioning within each foraging guild. On Leleuvia, with the ‘one-species only foraging guild’, Orange-breasted Myzomela occupied broader vertical foraging niche than on Viti Levu with two other competitor honeyeater species. This result supports the idea that vertical foraging height can be shaped by interspecific competition. The findings of this study support Darwin’s principle of divergence in Fiji’s forest birds for every foraging guild measured and adds to our understanding of the significance of interspecific competition and niche divergence for patterns of ecological speciation on islands.

Original languageEnglish
Article number223
Number of pages13
JournalDiversity
Volume14
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022

Keywords

  • foraging height
  • foraging substrate
  • foraging technique
  • resource niche partitioning
  • vertical stratification

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