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    The foliage palatability hypothesis predicts that avian insectivores will preferentially forage in tree species with the greatest abundance of their arthropod prey, which in turn are associated with the tree’s foliage nutrition and palatability. We tested this hypothesis in a novel Prosopis–Leucaena woodland in Puerto Rico by determining foraging preferences of five insectivorous bird species for six tree species (five alien, one native) and relating preferences to foliage arthropod biomass and leaf chemistry. The most frequently preferred tree species for foraging were the alien Prosopis juliflora (preferred by five bird species) and Pithecellobium dulce (preferred by four bird species). Both species had high foliage arthropod biomass, high N content, low lignin/N ratios, and low hemicellulose content. Compounds, previously known to affect herbivore responses to Albizia lebbeck and Leucaena leucocephala, may explain low arthropod biomass despite high N content in Albizia and avoidance of Leucaena by four bird species despite its high arthropod biomass. The native Bucida buceras had tough leaves with low N content, low arthropod biomass, and only one bird species showed a weak preference for foraging in it. Biomass of predaceous arthropods showed strong negative correlations with the ratios of lignin/N and hemicellulose/N. Some alien tree species had highly palatable foliage with high arthropod biomass and hence were preferred for foraging by avian insectivores as predicted by the foliage palatability hypothesis. High foliage palatability of some alien tree species may weaken the effect of enemy release in some novel plant communities.

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    Beltran, W.; Wunderle Jr., J.M. 2013. Determinants of tree species preference for foraging by insectivorous birds in a novel Prosopis - Leucaena woodland in Puerto Rico: the role of foliage palatability. Biodiversity and Conservation 22:2071-2089.


    Alien tree species, Avian insectivores, Enemy release, Foliage, arthropods, Leaf palatability

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