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Spatial segregation of specialists and generalists in bird communities


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Each species generally has a close relationship with one or more habitats and can therefore be classified as either specialist or generalist. We studied whether specialist and generalist species are spatially distributed independently of each other. Repeating the analysis for 100 of the most frequent terrestrial bird species recorded over the 10 000 sampled sites of the French Breeding Bird survey, we found that specialists were more abundant if the rest of the community was specialized, and that the inverse was also true. This pattern was far subtler than just a simple dichotomy: most species actually presented a maximum abundance at a value of community specialization similar to their own level of specialization. Bird communities appear very well defined along a specialist–generalist gradient. We believe this pattern becomes more apparent with habitat degradation. The consequences on both ecological services and community resilience may well be considerable.