Migrants in tropical bird communities: the balanced breeding limitation hypothesis


  • Matthew D. Johnson,

  • Allan M. Strong,

  • Thomas W. Sherry

M. D. Johnson (correspondence), Department of Wildlife, Humboldt State University, Arcata, California, 95521 USA. A. M. Strong, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, University of Vermont, 347 Aiken Center, Burlington, Vermont, 05405-0088 USA. T. W. Sherry, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana, 70118 USA. E-mail: mdj6@humboldt.edu


Explanations for the ecological integration of migratory and non-migratory (resident) insectivorous birds in the tropics have been complicated by the paradox that arthropod abundances are low when bird abundances reach their annual peak. The breeding currency hypothesis and the nest predation hypothesis both account for this paradox by postulating that residents are held below the non-breeding season carrying capacity, which frees resources available for migratory insectivores. The breeding currency hypothesis suggests residents are limited by food suitable for nestlings, whereas the nest predation hypothesis emphasizes the primacy of high rates of nest predation. However, theoretical arguments suggest that food availability and predation risk interact strongly to limit breeding birds. We use graphical analyses to extend the breeding currency hypothesis to incorporate effects of nest predation. This yields a more synthetic and realistic model for the integration of migrant and resident insectivores in the tropics – the balanced breeding limitation hypothesis.