Investigations of density interactions among breeding birds in ponderosa pine forests: correlative and experimental evidence

Jeffrey D Brawn, W. J. Boecklen, R. P. Balda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We assessed the importance of interspecific competition among insectivorous birds breeding in northcentral Arizona's ponderosa pine forests. We examined density interactions among species using two analytic approaches; correlative and experimental. The correlative approach examined patterns of change in breeding densities over four years at the community level and within two foraging guilds; picker-gleaners and aerial feeders. The relationships between morphological and behavioral similarity with pairwise density interactions were also assessed. Our experimental approach involved placement of nest boxes on two treatment plots to increase breeding densities of secondary cavity nesting birds that were in foraging guilds with open nesting insectivores. We found little evidence of interspecific competition. Patterns of density fluctuations indicated large positive covariances among species at both the community level and within guilds. Pairwise density interactions were independent of morphological or behavioral similarity. Nest boxes significantly increased breeding densities of the secondary cavity nesters. However, these increases did not induce reprocal density changes in the open nesting species. Interspecific competition for food during the breeding season appears to be unimportant in ponderosa pine bird communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)348-357
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1987
Externally publishedYes


  • Avian community structure
  • Density interactions
  • Interspecific competition
  • Ponderosa pine forests

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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