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Breeding biology of an afrotropical forest understory bird community in northeastern Tanzania

June 20, 2013

Many aspects of the breeding biology of Afrotropical forest birds are poorly known. Here we provide a description based on the monitoring of 1461 active nests over eight breeding seasons about one or more aspects of the breeding biology for 28 coexisting understory bird species on the Amani Plateau in the East Usambara Mountains, Tanzania. Mean nest height and mean distance of nest from forest edge varied widely among species with most species constructing nests across a broad vertical and forest edge to interior gradient. However, there were important exceptions with all sunbird species and several dove and waxbill species constructing nests in close proximity to the forest edge. For 17 common species for which we recorded two or more active nests, mean clutch size across species was 1.9 eggs per clutch, the lowest site-specific mean clutch size yet reported for a tropical forest bird community. For nine bird species, a subset of the 17 common species, length of breeding season, defined as the difference between the earliest and latest recorded incubation onset date, ranged from 88–139 days. Most of these nine species displayed a unimodal distribution in incubation onset dates across a breeding season which extended from the end of August through middle January. In summary, a wide variation exists in most aspects of the breeding biology within an understory forest bird community in the East Usambara Mountains.