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The Diets of Neotropical Trogons, Motmots, Barbets and Toucans

J. V. Remsen, Jr., Mary Ann Hyde and Angela Chapman
The Condor
Vol. 95, No. 1 (Feb., 1993), pp. 178-192
DOI: 10.2307/1369399
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1369399
Page Count: 15
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The Diets of Neotropical Trogons, Motmots, Barbets and Toucans
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Abstract

Although membership in broad diet categories is a standard feature of community analyses of Neotropical birds, the bases for assignments to diet categories are usually not stated, or they are derived from anecdotal information or bill shape. We used notations of stomach contents on museum specimen labels to assess membership in broad diet categories ("fruit only," "arthropods only," and "fruit and arthropods") for species of four families of birds in the Neotropics usually considered to have a mixed diet of fruit and animal matter: trogons (Trogonidae), motmots (Momotidae), New World barbets (Capitonidae), and toucans (Ramphastidae). An assessment of the accuracy of label data by direct comparison to independent microscopic analysis of actual stomach contents of the same specimens showed that label notations were remarkably accurate. The specimen label data for 246 individuals of 17 species of Trogonidae showed that quetzals (Pharomachrus) differ significantly from other trogons (Trogon) in being more frugivorous. Significant differences in degree of frugivory were found among various Trogon species. Within the Trogonidae, degree of frugivory is strongly correlated with body size, the larger species being more frugivorous. The more frugivorous quetzals (Pharomachrus) have relatively flatter bills than other trogons, in accordance with predictions concerning morphology of frugivores; otherwise, bill morphology correlated poorly with degree of frugivory. An analysis of label data from 124 individuals of six species of motmots showed that one species (Electron platyrhynchum) is highly insectivorous, differing significantly from two others that are more frugivorous (Baryphthengus martii and Momotus momota). An analysis of 135 individuals of 12 species of barbets showed that although "fruit only" predominated among almost all species, arthropods are more frequently recorded in the stomachs of species in the genera Eubucco and Capito than in Semnornis. The highly frugivorous diet of Semnornis species is yet another parameter in which they resemble toucans more than New World barbets. Data from 326 individuals of 32 species of toucans showed that the family is remarkably homogeneous in the predominance of fruit in the stomachs of all species. These data suggest that the degree to which toucans prey upon bird eggs and nestlings, and animal matter in general, is overemphasized. Although our data suggest that it is safe to assign toucans to a "fruit only" category in community analyses, such assignments must be taken on a genus-by-genus or species-by-species basis in trogons, motmots, and barbets.

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