Rainfall events drive foraging choices by an urban coloniser
Using a seven-year data set of visitation of an inner city park by the Australian white ibis, we investigated whether rain events were correlated with ibis abundance in the park. The park is associated with high levels of anthropogenic food, but relatively low levels of natural food sources. For all magnitudes of rainfall tested, ibis abundance significantly decreased after a rainfall event, although stronger responses were associated with higher rainfall, with a 46% decline in ibis abundance following rainfall events of ¿60 mm. Average ibis abundance was higher during the dry, non-breeding period than during the breeding period, and variation associated with rainfall was particularly pronounced in the non-breeding period. However, the rainfall response was still evident in both periods. Results suggest that rainfall influences the ibis distribution in urban centres either by decreasing anthropogenic food supplied to the birds, forcing the birds to relocate to forage, or increasing the amount of natural food available elsewhere, or a combination of the two. Increased rainfall intensified the response by ibis, and our results demonstrate the importance of climatic processes on the behaviour of urban birds.
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