Ecology of introduced game birds in high-elevation shrubland of Haleakala National Park

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1995-09
Authors
Cole, F Russell
Loope, Lloyd L.
Medeiros, Arthur C.
Raikes, Jane A.
Wood, Cynthia S.
Anderson, Laurel J.
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Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Department of Botany
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Abstract
The Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) and the Chukar (Alectoris chukar) are the dominant component of the avifauna in high-elevation shrubland (2070 - 3000 m) of Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii. This study focused on the natural history, ecological niche, and effects on native biota of these alien game birds in this Hawaiian ecosystem. Game-bird abundance varied within census periods, elevations, and seasons. Highest numbers of pheasants (17 - 94 birds/100 ha) occurred at 2430 - 2450 m elevation; highest number of Chukars (77 - 161 birds/100 ha) occurred at 2640 - 2660 m. Analyses of crop contents indicated that diets of the two species were similar. Ring-necked Pheasant and Chukar consumed predominantly fruits of native, woody dicots (39% and 47% respectively), and leaves (29% and 24% respectively) and flower parts (12 % and 17% respectively) of alien, herbaceous dicots. Both species generally selected food items according to their relative availability, although other factors influenced choice of certain items. Invertebrates were found to be a minor component of the game bird diet, suggesting that their impact on native invertebrate populations is minimal. Pheasant and Chukar occupy, at least partially, an ecological niche once held by now-extinct or rare birds, and appear not to be significant competitors with the endangered Nene. The role of these alien birds in facilitating seed dispersal and germination of native plant species is beneficial in restoring degraded ecosystems; native species dispersed include Styphelia tameiameiae, Vaccinium reticulatum, Coprosma ernodeoides, C. montana, Carex wahuensis, and Geranium cuneatum. However, game birds may indirectly threaten native Hawaiian avifauna by providing a seasonal food source for alien predators and serving as reservoirs/vectors for various bird parasites.
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Cole FR, Loope LL, Medeiros AC, Raikes JA, Wood CS, Anderson LJ. 1995. Ecology of introduced game birds in high-elevation shrubland of Haleakala National Park. Honolulu (HI): Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Department of Botany. PCSU Technical Report, 96.
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