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Herbivorous dietary selection shown by hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes) within mixed woodland habitats

Stenhouse, Ewan H. ORCID:, Bellamy, Paul, Kirby, William O., Vaughan, Ian P. ORCID:, Symondson, William O. C. ORCID: and Orozco Ter Wengel, Pablo ORCID: 2023. Herbivorous dietary selection shown by hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes) within mixed woodland habitats. Royal Society Open Science 10 , 230156. 10.1098/rsos.230156

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Knowledge of diet and dietary selectivity is vital, especially for the conservation of declining species. Accurately obtaining this information, however, is difficult, especially if the study species feeds on a wide range of food items within heterogeneous and inaccessible environments, such as the tree canopy. Hawfinches (Coccothraustes coccothraustes), like many woodland birds, are declining for reasons that are unclear. We investigated the possible role that dietary selection may have in these declines in the UK. Here, we used a combination of high-throughput sequencing of 261 hawfinch faecal samples assessed against tree occurrence data from quadrats sampled in three hawfinch population strongholds in the UK to test for evidence of selective foraging. This revealed that hawfinches show selective feeding and consume certain tree genera disproportionally to availability. Positive selection was shown for beech (Fagus), cherry (Prunus), hornbeam (Carpinus), maples (Acer) and oak (Quercus), while Hawfinch avoided ash (Fraxinus), birch (Betula), chestnut (Castanea), fir (Abies), hazel (Corylus), rowan (Sorbus) and lime (Tilia). This approach provided detailed information on hawfinch dietary choice and may be used to predict the effects of changing food resources on other declining passerines populations in the future.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Publisher: The Royal Society
ISSN: 2054-5703
Funders: NERC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 24 April 2023
Date of Acceptance: 23 April 2023
Last Modified: 04 Jul 2023 16:30

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