Shorter-winged forest birds more sensitive to habitat loss


New research has found that tropical forest birds with shorter wings are more sensitive to habitat fragmentation that those with longer wings.

By analysing the wings of more than 1,000 different species, the study showed that birds which tend to have wings that are short and round relative to their body length and shape are more sensitive to habitat fragmentation than the long- and slender-winged species common in temperate forests. 

Green Honeycreeper is one shorter-winged tropical species that isn't good at relocating when their habitat is fragmented (Romano Da Costa).

The research, published in Nature Ecology and Evolution, was led by Thomas Weeks of Imperial College London and involved an international team of scientists.

The study provides solid evidence that forest birds in lower latitudes, including as Blue-and-yellow MacawGreen Honeycreeper and Bare-faced Ibis, aren't good at relocating when their habitat gets broken up because they weren't required to evolve in ways that would make it easy to get to new areas

Previously, the reason behind tropical birds' comparative lack of dispersal skills had not been well understood, and there had also been some question as to whether a forest species' ability to move around was all that important in terms of dealing with habitat fragmentation.

Examples of temperate forest birds better built for dispersal include woodpeckers, robins, jays, cardinals, owls, turkeys, hawks and eagles.



Weeks, T L, Betts, M G, & 14 others. 2023. Climate-driven variation in dispersal ability predicts responses to forest fragmentation in birds. Nature Ecology & Evolution. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-023-02077-x