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Multi-marker DNA metabarcoding reveals spatial and sexual variation in the diet of a scarce woodland bird

Stenhouse, Ewan H. ORCID:, Bellamy, Paul, Kirby, Will, Vaughan, Ian P. ORCID:, Drake, Lorna E., Marchbank, Angela, Workman, Trudy, Symondson, William O.C. ORCID: and Orozco Ter Wengel, Pablo ORCID: 2023. Multi-marker DNA metabarcoding reveals spatial and sexual variation in the diet of a scarce woodland bird. Ecology and Evolution 13 (5) , e10089. 10.1002/ece3.10089

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Avian diet can be affected by site-specific variables, such as habitat, as well as intrinsic factors such as sex. This can lead to dietary niche separation, which reduces competition between individuals, as well as impacting how well avian species can adapt to environmental variation. Estimating dietary niche separation is challenging, due largely to difficulties in accurately identifying food taxa consumed. Consequently, there is limited knowledge of the diets of woodland bird species, many of which are undergoing serious population declines. Here, we show the effectiveness of multi-marker fecal metabarcoding to provide in-depth dietary analysis of a declining passerine in the UK, the Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes). We collected fecal samples from (n = 262) UK Hawfinches prior to, and during, the breeding seasons in 2016–2019. We detected 49 and 90 plant and invertebrate taxa, respectively. We found Hawfinch diet varied spatially, as well as between sexes, indicating broad dietary plasticity and the ability of Hawfinches to utilize multiple resources within their foraging environments.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Publisher: Wiley Open Access
ISSN: 2045-7758
Funders: NERC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 28 April 2023
Date of Acceptance: 28 April 2023
Last Modified: 17 Sep 2023 16:28

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