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Keywords:

  • agroecosystem;
  • Amazona arausiaca ;
  • commensalism;
  • Dominica;
  • habitat quality;
  • keystone species;
  • human–wildlife conflict;
  • top-down control

Abstract

How strong-beaked frugivores such as parrots affect other frugivores is poorly understood. This study quantitated six indices of habitat quality for the facultatively frugivorous Bananaquit (Coereba flaveola) using two habitat types and three treatments of habitat quality, namely old growth forest versus citrus orchards in Dominica, the latter habitat type with and without parrot frugivory. The study also controlled for elevation, rainfall and citrus fruit maturity. The results indicate that both the quantity of parrot frugivory and fruit maturity at the time of frugivory influenced the habitat quality for Bananaquits. Their abundance was higher, individuals stored more fat, and parasite loads were lower on farms with more parrot frugivory. Fruit quality mediated the influence of the quantity of parrot frugivory insofar as Bananaquit body condition was tightly correlated with the fruit chemistry at the time of frugivory or harvest. This study provides empirical evidence of a commensal association and underscores the important ecological role of Neotropical psittacines as mediators of habitat quality for other animal. The findings further suggest that loss of these apex consumers may have triggered previously unappreciated trophic cascades, particularly in island ecosystems lacking large mammalian canopy frugivores.