I studied the relationship between diurnal raptor diversity, density, and richness, and landscape heterogeneity in continuous primary forests and forests farmed by native Amerindians in the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve of northeastern Honduras from January to June 1996 and 1997. I estimated landscape heterogeneity—the variability in naturally occurring and/or anthropogenic habitat mosaics—by mapping the extent and distribution of five human-modified and natural habitats in 24 1 km2 survey plots. I used the Shannon index to calculate landscape heterogeneity values for the respective plots based on the proportion of total area of each habitat within each plot. Diurnal raptor surveys from canopy-emergent viewpoints in these plots resulted in 137 observations of 18 species of raptors. Four species (Coragyps atratus, Ictinia plumbea, Leucopternis albicollis, and Buteo magnirostris) differed significantly in abundance among heterogeneity classes. Raptor diversity, density, and richness all increased directly with increasing landscape heterogeneity. Landscape heterogeneity was more important in explaining differences in raptor species diversity than the presence or extent of any single habitat or combination of habitats. In contrast to previous studies, my results indicate the importance of indigenous shifting cultivation in altering the naturally occurring patterns of habitat mosaics in lowland rain forest and its effect on bird species abundance and diversity in a rain forest ecosystem.
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Vol. 33 • No. 3