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Papéis Avulsos de Zoologia

Print version ISSN 0031-1049

Pap. Avulsos Zool. (São Paulo) vol.53 no.25 São Paulo  2013

http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0031-10492013002500001 

Long-term avifaunal survey in an urban ecosystem from southeastern Brazil, with comments on range extensions, new and disappearing species

 

 

Marcelo Ferreira de VasconcelosI,II,V; Eduardo de Carvalho DutraI; Luiz Gabriel MazzoniI,II; Letícia Ferreira PedrosoI; Alyne PerilloI,II; Fernando Augusto ValérioI; Tadeu GuerraIII; Diego PetrocchiI; Rodrigo MoraisI; Lucas Penna Soares SantosI; Bruno GarzonI; Juan Espanha Moreira DiasII; José Enemir dos SantosII; Allan Suhett de MoraisI; Letícia Souza Lima GuimarãesI; Frederico Innecco Alves GarciaI,II; Thiago Oliveira e AlmeidaI; Carlos Eduardo Ribas Tameirão BenficaI; Helberth José Cardoso PeixotoIV; Bruno Pardinho RibeiroII

IMuseu de Ciências Naturais, Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Minas Gerais. Avenida Dom José Gaspar, 290, Bairro Coração Eucarístico, Campus PUC Minas, CEP 30535-901, Belo Horizonte, MG, Brasil
IIPós-Graduação em Zoologia de Vertebrados, Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Minas Gerais. Avenida Dom José Gaspar, 500, Bairro Coração Eucarístico, Campus PUC Minas, CEP 30535-610, Belo Horizonte, MG, Brasil
IIIDepartamento de Biologia Geral, Instituto de Ciências Biológicas, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais. Caixa Postal 486, CEP 30161-970, Belo Horizonte, MG, Brasil
IVPós-Graduação em Biologia Animal, Museu de Zoologia João Moojen, Universidade Federal de Viçosa. Vila Gianetti, 32, CEP 36570-000, Viçosa, MG, Brasil
VE-mail corresponding author: mfvasconcelos@gmail.com

 

 


ABSTRACT

Urban avifaunal surveys in Brazil have been increasing in recent years, despite none of them consisting of long-term studies indicating events of regional colonization and/or missing species. Here, we present an avifaunal survey of an urbanized ecosystem in southeastern Brazil, carried out along 30 years, on the campus of the Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Minas Gerais, municipality of Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais state. Inside the campus there is a forest reserve adjacent to a small lake. The inventory was mainly based on opportunistic records from the years 1982-2013. We recorded 134 bird species along the past 30 years. However, the present avifauna is composed of 123 species. A total of 97 species was recorded in the reserve, including the forest fragment and the adjacent lake, of which 44 were exclusive to this area. Nevertheless, the majority of the current species found in the study area is forest independent (N = 51) or semi-dependent (N = 46). There is a predominance of insectivorous (N = 43) and omnivorous (N = 29) species. The current avifauna is represented by 15 migratory species, which can be found both in the urbanized area and in the forest remnant. However, the majority of the species (N = 75) is resident in the area, including three invasive species, whereas few others (N = 28) are occasional visitors. The remaining species were probably introduced in the area. There were 11 cases of disappearing species, which include typical forest birds, and also species typical of wetlands and rural environments. We also comment on recent colonization and on the possible effects of isolation on birds. Probably, the majority of forest-dependents are on the brink of extinction in the forest fragment. Thus, the species' list provided here can be useful as a database for monitoring long-term effects of urbanization on this bird community.

Key-Words: Avifauna; Colonization; Disappearing species; Urban environment.


RESUMO

Levantamentos da avifauna urbana no Brasil tem aumentado nos últimos anos, embora nenhum deles consista de estudos a longo prazo que indiquem eventos de colonizações regionais ou desaparecimento de espécies. Neste estudo, apresentamos um levantamento da avifauna de um ecossistema urbano do sudeste brasileiro, efetuado ao longo de 30 anos, no campus da Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Minas Gerais, município de Belo Horizonte, estado de Minas Gerais. Dentro do campus há uma pequena reserva florestal adjacente a um pequeno lago. O inventário foi baseado principalmente em registros aleatórios ao longo de 1982-2013. Foram registradas 134 espécies de aves neste período. Entretanto, a avifauna atual é composta por 123 espécies. Um total de 97 espécies foi registrado na reserva, representada pelo fragmento florestal e pelo lago adjacente, das quais 44 foram exclusivas a esta área. Todavia, a maior parte das espécies de aves que ocorrem atualmente na área de estudo é independente (N = 51) ou semi-dependente (N = 46) de florestas. Há um predomínio de espécies insetívoras (N = 43) e onívoras (N = 29). A avifauna atual é representada por 15 espécies migratórias, que podem ser encontradas tanto na área urbanizada quanto no remanescente florestal. Entretanto, a maioria das espécies (N = 75) é residente na área, incluindo três invasoras, enquanto outras (N = 28) são representadas por visitantes ocasionais. O restante das espécies foi possivelmente introduzido na área. Houve 11 casos de desaparecimento de espécies, que incluem espécies típicas de matas, áreas úmidas e ambientes rurais. Também comentamos sobre colonizações recentes e sobre possíveis efeitos do isolamento nas aves. Provavelmente, a maior parte das espécies dependentes de florestas está próxima à extinção local no fragmento florestal. Assim, o presente levantamento pode ser útil como uma base de informações para monitoramentos de longo prazo sobre os efeitos da urbanização sobre esta comunidade de aves.

Palavras-Chave: Ambiente urbano; Avifauna; Colonização; Desaparecimento de espécies.


 

 

INTRODUCTION

In the past century urban ecosystems became the main landscape for billions of people around the world, and concentration of urban population is rising fast (Grimm et al., 2008). In those ecosystems dominated by human activities, biodiversity exerts an important role on human health and welfare and should be managed for improving the quality of life of citizens and the conservation of wildlife (Savard et al., 2000). Birds are important drivers of processes that regulate and support ecosystem function, including pest control, carcass and waste disposal, nutrient deposition, seed dispersal, pollination, and ecosystem engineering by burrow and cavity diggers (Sekercioglu, 2006). Besides the recreational, aesthetic and educational significance of urban birds (Sick, 1997), this highly mobile group is of major importance concerning air traffic collisions (Kitowski, 2011) and the spread of disease (Reed et al., 2003). Urbanization negatively affects bird species richness and composition, selecting against specialized species and favoring synanthropic ones (Chace & Walsh, 2006; Carvalho & Marini, 2007; Ortega-Álvarez & MacGregor-Fors, 2009; Reis et al., 2012). However, even in urban ecosystems, bird species comprise remarkable elements of the biodiversity, and information on community composition can be an important tool for monitoring environmental changes (Fernández-Juricic & Jokimäki, 2001; Chace & Walsh, 2006; Ortega-Álvarez & MacGregor-Fors, 2009, 2011; Fontana et al., 2011; Reis et al., 2012).

The interest of studying bird species composition in urban ecosystems of Brazil exists for decades, which is reflected by the increasing number of studies which have been recently published on this subject (e.g., Rusczyk et al., 1987; Argel-de-Oliveira, 1990, 1995; Matarazzo-Neuberger, 1992, 1995; Monteiro & Brandão, 1995; Alves & Pereira, 1998; D'Angelo-Neto et al., 1998; Borges & Guilherme, 2000; Mendonça-Lima & Fontana, 2000; Guilherme, 2001; Franchin & Marçal-Júnior, 2004; Franchin et al., 2004; Lopes & Anjos, 2006; Scherer et al., 2006; Valadão et al., 2006a, b; Torga et al., 2007; Vasconcelos, 2007; Vasconcelos et al., 2007; Paetzold & Querol, 2008; Pinheiro et al., 2008; Pereira & Silva, 2009; Fontana et al., 2011; Rosa & Blamires, 2011; Dario, 2012; Franco & Prado, 2012; Mafia et al., 2012; Reis et al., 2012; Scherer-Neto et al., 2012; Teles et al., 2012). However, none of these surveys consist of long-term studies that indicate events of regional colonization and/or missing species.

In this paper we present an avifaunal survey of an urbanized ecosystem in southeastern Brazil, carried out along 30 years. Bird species were classified according to occurrence in urban habitats and in the reserve, which includes a native forest remnant and an adjacent lake located within the area. We describe the current bird community in terms of species richness, composition, trophic structure, and the patterns of movement. We also report and comment on range extensions, regional colonization and disappearing species in the bird community during this period.

 

METHODS

Study area

The campus of the Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Minas Gerais (hereafter campus) is located in the district of Coração Eucarístico, municipality of Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais state, southeastern Brazil, between the coordinates 19º54'58"S and 19º55'35"S, 43º59'19"W and 43º59'44"W (Fig. 1), with elevation ranging from 870 to 930 m above sea level. Belo Horizonte is located in a transitional zone between the Atlantic Forest and the Cerrado.

Until 1926, the area was a farm (Fazenda Gameleira) in the suburbs of Belo Horizonte. It was occupied by the Catholic Church, with the building of the "Seminário Coração Eucarístico" (PBH, 2012). In 1970 the area started to shelter the new campus of the Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Minas Gerais (PUC Minas) (Cuadrado, 1987); later, urban areas rapidly occupied its surroundings, especially in the 1980s (B.J. Teixeira, pers. com.).

Inside the campus there is a forest reserve known as "Mata da PUC" (hereafter "PUC forest"). This is a fragment of secondary semideciduous forest of c. 66,755 m² (Mata da PUC Minas, 2011). Important tree species identified in this fragment (Werneck, 1998) include: "pau-jacaré" (Piptadenia gonoacantha), "capixim" (Mollinedia widgrenii), "camboatá" (Cupania vernalis), "camboatá-branco" (Matayba elaeagnoides), "canela-papagaio" (Endlicheria paniculata), "maria-faceira" (Guapira opposita), "guamirim-chorão" (Myrcia rostrata), and "carne-de-vaca" (Roupala brasiliensis). Along the forest edges, there are plantations of Asiatic bamboos. In the interior of the forest, it is possible to find other exotic plants, such as: banana (Musa sp.), avocado (Persea americana), mango (Mangifera indica), taro (Xanthosoma sagittifolium), "espada-de-são-jorge" (Sansevieria trifasciata), salvia (Salvia splendens) and "bico-de-papagaio" (Euphorbia pulcherrima) (M.F.V., pers. obs.).

Based on old aerial photographs available at the university library, it was found that the forest fragment was completely isolated from other forest patches since 1960; part of it, currently covered by secondary forest, was cleared in the past (Fig. 2). This area was reforested with native and exotic trees in the 1970s and the vegetation regenerated (Mata da PUC Minas, 2011). Nevertheless, in the 1960s the entire area of the campus was on the outskirts of Belo Horizonte, in a predominantly rural matrix where pastures and swampy areas dominated (B.J. Teixeira, pers. com.). Currently, however, this area is completely inserted in an urban matrix, which prevents or impairs the dispersal of several bird species to other city parks and reserves. Furthermore, a small airport (Aeroporto de Carlos Prates), in activity since 1944, is located c. 500 m from the campus.

Adjacent to the PUC forest is a small lake of about 1,280 m², which was formed by damming a small stream (Landa & Landa, 2001). Upstream, there is another temporary lake, which presents water only during the rainy season (October-March) and becomes a marsh during the dry season (April-September). The rest of the campus is characterized by several buildings and gardens, represented by various tree species, most of them exotic.

Despite the importance of the PUC forest as a training site for the undergraduate and graduate students of this institution, there are only three published studies on its fauna: a checklist of butterflies (Silva et al., 2007), a study on the use of space by the White-eared Opossum (Didelphis albiventris – Almeida et al., 2008) and a behavioral study of the Flavescent Warbler (Basileuterus flaveolus – Perillo et al., 2010). With respect to the campus, the only published paper refers to the behavior of the Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia – Perillo et al., 2011).

Avifaunal survey

The general survey of the campus avifauna was conducted between 1982 and 2013. Most of the authors' records were opportunistic, without systematic survey techniques. J.E.S. and B.G. initiated fortuitous bird observations in 1982, working from then until the present as teachers of this institution.

Later, L.G.M., A.P. and R.M. conducted a systematic survey of the avifauna of the PUC forest between 2005 and 2007 using point counts. In that study, 11 points were established in the PUC forest (50 m apart from each other), which were sampled for eight minutes in fortnight campaigns, totaling 160 h of sampling effort.

Another systematic study in this forest fragment was conducted by F.A.V. and D.P. based on MacKinnon lists of 10 species (MacKinnon & Phillips, 1993; Herzog et al., 2002; Ribon, 2010) during monthly observations conducted in the morning (06:00 h-08:00 h) between 2 March 2012 and 8 June 2012, totaling 30 h of sampling effort.

Since April 2010, M.F.V. has taught several field classes in the PUC forest and other areas of the campus, including bird observations (c. 250 h of sampling effort) and capture with mist-nets (c. 20,000 m².h, following Straube & Bianconi, 2002). In those recent surveys, the vocalizations of several species have been recorded with a Sony TCM-5000EV tape recorder and Sennheiser ME-66 microphone. Copies of these vocalizations will be deposited in the Arquivo Sonoro Prof. Elias Coelho (ASEC), at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Between 2006 and 2012, C.E.R.T.B., J.E.M.D. and B.P.R. also documented the avifauna with photographs, which have been kept in their personal archives.

Additionally, for the general survey of the avifauna, we also checked the bird collection of the Museu de Ciências Naturais da PUC Minas (MCNA), where there are several bird specimens (study skins and skeletons) from the study area and its vicinities.

The systematic order and scientific names follow the Brazilian Committee of Ornithological Records (CBRO, 2011). Classification of endemic birds of the Atlantic Forest was based on Brooks et al. (1999b), while those endemic to the Cerrado followed Silva (1995). Species were classified by forest dependency according to Silva (1995). Birds were also classified in trophic guilds according to Motta Junior (1990), Stotz et al. (1996), Sick (1997) and Lopes et al. (2005), and according to their migratory status following Sick (1984, 1997) and Chesser (1994). Exotic species were considered invasive, occupying the area with human assistance and, later, establishing populations followed by range expansion (sensu Simberloff, 2010). We treated those invasive species differently than introduced species, considering native species that were released in the area; the majority of them common in the pet trade.

 

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

Avifaunal survey

We recorded a total of 134 bird species belonging to 40 families on the campus along the past 30 years (Appendix). However, the present avifauna (recorded between 2005 and 2013) is composed by 123 species from 38 families, mostly native species. Most species (N = 53, 39.6%) were recorded using both urbanized areas and the forest remnant vicinities, but only 37 species (27.6%) were observed exclusively in urbanized area. A total of 97 species (72.4%) was recorded in the forest fragment and its adjacent areas, including the lake. However, 44 species (32.8%) were found exclusively in this habitat, including the Rufous-headed Tanager (Hemithraupis ruficapilla), an Atlantic Forest endemic, and the Chestnut-capped Foliage-gleaner (Hylocryptus rectirostris), a Cerrado endemic, highlighting the transitional character of the region. Nevertheless, the majority of the current bird species found in the study area is forest-independent (N = 51, 41.5%) or semi-dependent (N = 46, 37.4%). Only 26 species (21.1%) are considered forest-dependent and all of them have populations restricted to small forest fragments, including Plain Antvireo (Dysithamnus mentalis), Black-capped Antwren (Herpsilochmus atricapillus), Variable Antshrike (Thamnophilus caerulescens), Chestnut-capped Foliage-gleaner (Hylocryptus rectirostris), Sooty-fronted Spinetail (Synallaxis frontalis), Sepia-capped Flycatcher (Leptopogon amaurocephalus), Yellow-olive Flycatcher (Tolmomyias sulphurescens), Fuscous Flycatcher (Cnemotriccus fuscatus), Euler's Flycatcher (Lathrotriccus euleri), Rufous-headed Tanager (Hemithraupis ruficapilla), Saffron-billed Sparrow (Arremon flavirostrisFig. 3), White-bellied Warbler (Basileuterus hypoleucus) and Flavescent Warbler (Basileuterus flaveolus).

 

 

Considering the current bird assemblage in different trophic guilds, there is a predominance of insectivorous (N = 43, 35%) and omnivorous (N = 29, 23.6%) species, a common pattern found in general Neotropical urban avifauna (Ortega-Álvarez & MacGregor-Fors, 2011). However, we also found some frugivorous (N = 14, 11.4%), granivorous (N = 10, 8.1%), nectarivorous (N = 9, 7.3%), carnivorous (N = 9, 7.3%), piscivorous (N = 6, 4.9%) and detritivorous (N = 3, 2.4%) species. Although birds in most guilds are able to use both the urbanized area and the reserve, the diversity of more specialized insectivorous and piscivorous was higher in the forest remnant and adjacent lake (Fig. 4).

 

 

In relation to the pattern of movements and dispersal, the current avifauna is represented by 15 migratory species (see below), nine from Tyrannidae and the remaining distributed among other five families (Appendix). These migratory species can be found both in the urbanized area and in the forest remnant, but few species exclusively used the reserve (Fig. 5). However, most species recorded (N = 75, 61%) can be considered as resident in the area, including three invasive species, whereas few others (N = 28, 22.8%) are occasional visitors. The remaining species were probably introduced in the area, and the majority of them have been recorded in the reserve (Fig. 5).

 

 

Also noteworthy are those species of aquatic habitats, which are restricted to the small permanent lake adjacent to the PUC forest. Examples are: Neotropic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax brasilianus), Black-crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax), Striated Heron (Butorides striata), Great Egret (Ardea alba), Gray-necked Wood-Rail (Aramides cajanea), Paint-billed Crake (Neocrex erythrops), Ringed Kingfisher (Megaceryle torquata) and Amazon Kingfisher (Chloroceryle amazona). The piscivorous species are occasional visitors in the study area and feed mainly on Nile Tilapias (Oreochromis niloticus) that were introduced in this lake. In the specific case of the Paint-billed Crake, the only species record in the study area is based on a specimen found dead near the Museu de Ciências Naturais, not far from the lake, on 28 September 2010 (Lopes et al., 2012). Its skeleton was prepared and deposited in the bird collection of this institution (MCNA 1757). Sick (1997) reports another record of this species for the city of Belo Horizonte, possibly based on a skin deposited in the collection of the Museu de História Natural and Jardim Botânico da Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, which was checked by M.F.V.

Disappearing species

Over the course of this 30-year-survey, there were 11 cases of disappearing species in the study area, based on species recorded in the 1980s and 1990s (J.E.S. and B.G., pers. obs.; L.F. Silveira, pers. com.), but not detected anymore in recent years (2005 onwards). These species are: Small-billed Tinamou (Crypturellus parvirostris), Swallow-tailed Kite (Elanoides forficatus), Pauraque (Hydropsalis albicollis), Rufous-fronted Thornbird (Phacellodomus rufifrons), Yellow-chinned Spinetail (Certhiaxis cinnamomeus), White-headed Marsh Tyrant (Arundinicola leucocephala), White-rumped Swallow (Tachycineta leucorrhoa), Black-capped Donacobius (Donacobius atricapilla), Pileated Finch (Lanio pileatus), Rufous-collared Sparrow (Zonotrichia capensis) and Chopi Blackbird (Gnorimopsar chopi).

Those missing species can be divided into three different groups according to their habitats: species typical of forests and forest edges, species typical of wetlands with cattails (Typha sp.), and species typical of rural environments. The first group includes E. forficatus and H. albicollis, which probably disappeared due to the rapid urbanization of the region, which led to the reduction of fragments needed for foraging and perching (E. forficatus) or because of the strong pressure of ground-nest predation by domestic cats and dogs (H. albicollis), a well known impact on the avifauna of urban areas (Woods et al., 2003; Galetti & Sazima, 2006). Even though both species are absent at PUC Forest currently, they apparently present different extinction levels. Hydropsalis albicollis should be considered locally extinct, as it can still be found in larger forest fragments around the city (Vasconcelos et al., 2003; Vasconcelos, 2007). However, E. forficatus should be considered regionally extinct, as there are no longer known records of the species in Belo Horizonte, nor in its surroundings (Carvalho & Marini, 2007; L.G.M., M.F.V. and C.E.R.T.B., pers. obs.). Birds of the second group include C. cinnamomeus, A. leucocephala and D. atricapilla, occurring in wetlands with cattails until the 1990s. Subsequently, most of this vegetation was harvested and these three species had no longer been recorded. The third group includes the remaining species, C. parvirostris, P. rufifrons, T. leucorrhoa, L. pileatus, Z. capensis and G. chopi, which are very common in rural habitats of central and southeastern Brazil (farms, orchards, plantations) that until the late 1970s represented the dominant landscape of the region where the campus was located. With rapid urbanization in the region after the 1980s, it is possible that these species were no longer able to maintain viable populations in the campus area surrounded by inappropriate urban matrix.

Recent colonization

Two bird species are common in the muddy margins of the small lake adjacent to the PUC forest: the Wing-banded Hornero (Furnarius figulus) and the Masked Water-Tyrant (Fluvicola nengeta). Both are species with original ranges in northeastern Brazil, but which have been expanding southwards since the last century (Alvarenga, 1990; Willis, 1991; Lo, 1994; Sick, 1997; Krauczuk et al., 2003; Alvarenga et al., 2006; Klavins & Bodrati, 2007; Straube et al., 2007; Melo, 2010; Figueiredo et al., 2010; Quintas-Filho et al., 2011; Straube, 2012). Notwithstanding, F. nengeta has been recorded in the area since the earliest surveys (1980s), suggesting an older colonization (see Straube, 2012). On the other hand, F. figulus was only recorded in the area after the 1990s (J.E.S., pers. obs.).

The Picazuro Pigeon (Patagioenas picazuro) was rarely recorded in the campus area in the 1980s, as well as in the surroundings of Belo Horizonte city, until the mid-1990s. Currently, it is widespread throughout the city and very common on the campus. This species has also expanded its range in the state of São Paulo (Willis & Oniki, 1987; Alvarenga, 1990). Willis (1991) suggested that it would be important to collect specimens of P. picazuro in the state of São Paulo in order to determine if the subspecies expanding there was the southern form (P. p. picazuro) or the northeastern subspecies (P. p. marginalis). Seven specimens that were found dead in the study area (MCNA 726, 1881, 2361, 2362, 2363, 2364, 2922) were identified as the subspecies P. p. marginalis (following Pinto, 1949), suggesting that colonization of Belo Horizonte should be occurring from north to south.

The Band-winged Nightjar (Hydropsalis longirostris) was previously recorded on the campus in 1995 (L.F. Silveira, pers. com.). Recently, on 13 October 2011, a young male was found dead near the campus. This specimen was prepared as a study skin and has been deposited in MCNA (under the registration number MCNA 1796). Since it is known that H. longirostris has the ability to colonize large and medium-sized cities, such as Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre and Santo Amaro (Sick, 1959, 1963, 1997; Ingels et al., 1999), it is very possible that this species is colonizing urban areas of Belo Horizonte. In this city, it has also been recorded in recent years in regions where it had not been detected until the last 20 years, such as the districts of Anchieta, Funcionários, Gutierrez, Luxemburgo, Mangabeiras, Santa Lúcia, Santo Antônio and Serra (L.G.M., M.F.V., C.E.R.T.B. and L.P.S.S., pers. obs.).

Finally, the record of the Masked Gnatcatcher (Polioptila dumicola) on the campus represents a range extension of almost 300 km to the east, based on current literature. In Minas Gerais, its known range is concentrated in the extreme west of the state, in the regions of Triângulo Mineiro and northwestern Minas Gerais (Ridgely & Tudor, 1989; Ridgely et al., 2007; Lopes et al., 2008; Faria et al., 2009). Although unpublished, four specimens collected in 2004 by M.F.V. at Fazenda Buriti Grande (18º44'S, 45º20'W), municipality of Morada Nova de Minas, are deposited in the Coleção Ornitológica do Departamento de Ornitologia da Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (DZUFMG 4182, 4183, 4248, 5188), which extends the species' range to the central region of the state. Anyway, the record on the campus still represents the southeastern border of the range of P. dumicola (c. 200 km southeast of Fazenda Buriti Grande). The species was first recorded in the study area in 2010. Since P. dumicola was not detected during other surveys conducted in other areas of Belo Horizonte (Carnevalli & Rigueira, 1982; Rigueira et al., 1982; Faggioli, 1991; Vasconcelos, 2007; Pedersoli et al., 2010; Mafia et al., 2012), it is possible that the species has been expanding its range as a result of recent environmental changes.

Introduced and invasive species

Some species recorded on the campus are commonly appreciated by the human population as pets and can be considered as introduced. Some of them have sporadic records in the study area, but do not appear to establish populations there, including Dusky-legged Guan (Penelope obscuraFig. 6), Blue-fronted Parrot (Amazona aestiva), Green-winged Saltator (Saltator similis) and Hooded Siskin (Sporagra magellanica). Probably, these birds escaped from captivity or have been released. All individuals of the above mentioned species were recorded only once on the campus, were not shy (an indication that it is used to humans) and were represented by a single individual.

 

 

On the other hand, the introduced Saffron Finch (Sicalis flaveola), which has been recently released by the Brazilian environmental agency (IBAMA) and the forest police in Belo Horizonte and several other cities of Minas Gerais state, has a stable and reasonable population in the campus area.

Three other common and abundant species, the Rock Pigeon (Columba livia), the Common Waxbill (Estrilda astrild) and the House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) are exotic and considered invasive in Brazil, commonly found in urbanized ecosystems (Sick, 1997).

Migratory species

Despite the fact that we did not attempt to record specific dates of arrival and departure of some migratory species on the campus, we were able to note some patterns of occurrence for some of them. The migratory species found were mostly passerines (including several tyrant-flycatchers) and have been generally recorded in the study area between August and December, including: Streaked Flycatcher (Myiodynastes maculatus), White-throated Kingbird (Tyrannus albogularis), Tropical Kingbird (T. melancholicus), Fork-tailed Flycatcher (T. savana), Crowned Slaty Flycatcher (Griseotyrannus aurantioatrocristatus), Variegated Flycatcher (Empidonomus varius), Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus) and Eastern Slaty Thrush (Turdus subalaris).

On the other hand, our records for the Brown-chested Martin (Progne tapera) are concentrated during the first months of the year, between January and April. Nevertheless, more detailed investigations are needed to understand the patterns of temporal occurrence of those species in the study area. An example is the Gray Monjita (Xolmis cinereus), for which we could not find any clear pattern of seasonal occurrence on the campus.

Possible effects of isolation on birds

The campus population of the Chalk-browed Mockingbird (Mimus saturninus) consists of several individuals possessing a distinct phenotype from the original form. Some of them exhibit, to a greater or lesser extent, a blackish-brown throat, sometimes expanding to the breast (Fig. 7). Probably, this atypical plumage pattern is related to a mutation established in the campus population, isolated from others by the urban matrix, where the species is rarely recorded. However, other individuals showing the same atypical plumage pattern have been observed by M.F.V. in two squares of Belo Horizonte city: the Praça do Papa (19º57'22"S, 43º54'54"W) and the Praça Professor Alberto Mazzoni (19º54'31"S, 43º56'11"W). Rapid changes in plumage color and morphology (over a few decades) have been suggested or documented for isolated bird populations (e.g., Fitzpatrick, 1980; Remsen Jr., 1984; Rasner et al., 2004). Thus, detailed genetic studies should be conducted to test whether this mutation is related to the possible isolation of urban populations of this species.

 

 

CONCLUSION

The campus avifauna is relatively rich and still harbors many native bird species from different functional guilds that must contribute considerably to the health of this urban ecosystem. Nevertheless, the bird community comprises mostly widespread generalists. Yet the forest remnant increases habitat heterogeneity on the campus, favoring more specialized species than urbanized areas, and increasing functional diversity of birds on a small scale. Nevertheless, several species have disappeared from the area in a few years, whereas others have been introduced or have invaded this ecosystem, highlighting the pervasive effects of urbanization on bird community turnover. The cases of disappearing species suggest that isolated bird populations are likely to be extirpated in the urban matrix, especially because metapopulations of various species should not be able to recolonize these areas. For example, in the Brazilian Amazon, Borges & Guilherme (2000) found that the loss of understory bird species in an urban fragment of the city of Manaus was stronger than in forest fragments located in rural matrices, such as pastures and plantations. In this respect, within the study area, a single event of harvesting cattails led to the disappearance of three species (see above).

In addition, most forest-dependent species found are represented by small populations in the forest fragment and they are isolated from other populations at least since the 1960s, when the PUC forest was already isolated from other forest fragments (see Fig. 2). Therefore, it is possible that species with small populations are on the brink of extinction in this fragment (Brooks et al., 1999a), since they probably do not present potential abilities for dispersal to other urban or suburban forested areas. Moreover, the gene flow of these populations is probably interrupted for decades. This isolation of small populations of forest-dependent birds, combined with the risk of predation by domestic cats and dogs that roam in the area, makes it possible to foresee that, in a few decades, the PUC forest will face local extinctions of some bird species (see Christiansen & Pitter, 1997; Willis & Oniki, 2002; Ribon et al., 2003), the last testimonies of the still little known forest avifauna of the municipality of Belo Horizonte.

The species list provided here will be useful as a database for monitoring long term effects of urbanization on this bird community. The continuous effort in surveying the campus avifauna will allow us to document new colonization and future local extinctions, especially in the case of forest-dependent species.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Prof. Bonifácio José Teixeira and Prof. Miguel Ângelo Andrade facilitated our field work in the PUC forest and provided all the institutional support for the conclusion of this study. The taxidermist and biologist Leandro de Oliveira Marques assisted in the preparation of some specimens found dead inside the campus. Ivana Gabriela Schork and Mariane da Cruz Kaizer collected a specimen of the Band-winged Nightjar, which was found dead near the campus. Marcela Fortes de Oliveira Passos, Eduardo José Gazzinelli, Igor Soares, Diego Hoffmann, Thais Augusta Maia, Vinícius Ferreira de Abreu, Ingred Rose Resende, Gefferson Guilherme Rodrigues Silva and Paula Cabral Eterovick accompanied us while doing some field work. We are also grateful to the Centro de Memória of the Library "Pe. Alberto Antoniazzi" for providing aerial photographs of the study area.

 

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Aceito em: 14/05/2013
Impresso em: 30/06/2013

 

 

APPENDIX

 


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