Food supplementation by an invasive fleshy-fruited shrub sustains body condition of a native frugivorous bird during winter.
Birds tend to adjust their behavior and physiology to changes in food availability in their environment. Seasonal fluctuation of food resources may act as an energetic challenge, augmenting hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis) activity, leading to an increase in corticosterone concentrations and promoting the metabolism of energy stores. Plant invasions may alter seasonal food fluctuations by providing a food supply during scarce seasons. This could attenuate the energetic challenge, reducing HPA axis activity and the metabolism of reserves. Using a system with seasonal fluctuation in food availability, we tested if fruit supplementation by the invasive fleshy-fruited Pyracantha angustifolia during the season of native fruit scarcity decreases the consumption of energy stores through activity attenuation of the HPA axis. We measured changes in body condition and circulating corticosterone (CORT) concentration in Turdus chiguanco occurring at sites both invaded and not invaded by P. angustifolia over 3 time periods that correspond to the periods prior to, during and after highest fruit production of the plant. Fruit scarcity in the ecosystem appears as an energetic challenge for T. chiguanco, given that body mass, fat score and residuals of body mass/tarsus length decreased during winter in a site not invaded by the exotic shrub. Conversely, the presence of the invasive plant seemed to attenuate the metabolism of energetic reserves, as we did not record changes in body condition in birds inhabiting the invaded site. Unexpectedly, plasma CORT concentration did not vary between sites or periods. Further evaluation is required to elucidate how enhanced body condition, resulting from the consumption of a fleshy-fruited invasive plant, affects survivorship and reproductive performance in T. chiguanco.