Foraging behavior and coexistence of two sunbird species in a Kenyan woodland

J. O. Oyugi, J. S. Brown, Christopher J. Whelan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We investigated the mechanism of coexistence of the rare Amani Sunbird (Hedydipna pallidigastra) and the widespread Collared Sunbird (H. collaris), within Brachystegia woodland in the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, Kenya. We compared how prey abundance and search strategies affect resource exploitation by the two species. We used foraging theory to direct our measures of feeding activities as influenced by sunbird species, tree species and foraging height. We evaluated invertebrate abundance among tree species at different heights within trees. The Collared Sunbird primarily used the understory, and the Amani Sunbird primarily used the upper-canopy. Overall, the rate of prey attacks per flight of the Amani Sunbird was 2.8 times greater than that of the Collared Sunbird. The Amani Sunbird, however, used increased search and attack rates in the understory compared with the mid- and upper-canopies, but the Collared Sunbird foraged similarly throughout all strata. We hypothesize that the increased foraging rate of the Amani in the understory reflects increased foraging costs due to interference from the Collared Sunbird in that stratum. Furthermore, the Collared Sunbird exploits rich patches by moving frequently from place to place. The Amani Sunbird forages slowly, with reduced travel rates, and with a greater number of prey captures within a patch. Arthropod density did not differ among the vegetative strata, but was higher in Brachystegia spiciformis and Hymenaea verrucosa than in six other tree species. We hypothesize that the Amani Sunbird appears dependent upon continued tall B. spiciformis trees within the canopy of the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)262-269
Number of pages8
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2012


  • INHS
  • Competition
  • Hymenaea
  • Brachystegia
  • Hedydypna
  • Invertebrates
  • Foraging rates
  • Arabuko-Sokoke forest

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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