We studied mixed-species insectivorous bird flocks in pine-oak forests in Middle America during three winter seasons to determine whether patterns of flock structure and dynamics were similar to those reported from other tropical sites. We also analyzed patterns of association among bird species, as well as their foraging behavior and the vegetation characteristics associated with birds in flocks. We encountered 333 flocks containing 144 species, of which 26 species had adequate sample sizes for analyses. The size and rate of movement of the flocks were similar to those reported from other Neotropical sites, however, the species richness of our flocks was lower than reported in most other studies, perhaps due to simpler vegetation structure or higher latitude. Only 3 of 50 significant correlations between species pairs were negative, indicating that species generally were not restricted in their participation in mixed-species flocks by other species. In only one instance did we observe correspondence between the association of species-pairs in flocks and their foraging behavior. For most species there was no relationship between association between species-pairs in flocks and vegetation parameters with which they were associated. Thus, additional factors besides foraging facilitation and mutual association with particular vegetation characteristics must be responsible for many of the positive correlations among species pairs. We suggest that non-random association among species within flocks may result in part from enhanced vigilance for predator detection afforded by flock members using similar parts of the environment at the same time.
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Vol. 102 • No. 3