Frugivorous birds visit fruits of emerging alien shrub species more frequently than those of native shrub species in the South African Mediterranean climate region.
We compared daily visitation frequency indices by 4 large (>150 g), 7 medium-size (50-150 g), 5 small (30-50 g) and 8 and tiny (<30 g) frugivorous bird species on fleshy fruits of two native shrubs (Olea europaea subsp. africana and Chrysanthemoides monilifera subsp. monilifera), two established alien shrubs (Solanum mauritianum and Lantana camara) and two emerging alien shrubs (Myoporum tenuifolium and Pittosporum undulatum) at nine different sites in the Cape Floristic Region. Large, medium-size and tiny birds as groups displayed significantly higher visitation frequency indices on fruits of both emerging alien shrub species than the other shrub species. Small birds as a group displayed insignificantly different visitation frequency indices on fruits of both emerging and established alien shrub species but significantly higher visitation frequency indices on fruits of both emerging and established alien shrub species than on fruits of the native shrub species. However, there were significant differences in foraging frequency indices of the bird species included within each of these body size groups on fruits of the different shrub species. Among the large birds, Columba guinea and among the medium size birds Sturnus vulgaris, Streptopelia senegalensis, Turdus olivaceus and Onychognathus morio all exhibited significantly higher visitation frequency indices on fruits of both emerging alien shrub species than on fruits of the other shrub species. These findings indicate that alien plant control measures should be focused on eradicating localised populations of emerging aliens to limit preferential consumption of their fruits by birds and consequent dispersal of their seeds that germinate readily into natural areas.