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1 May 2013 Habitat Partitioning and Niche Overlap of Two Forest Thrushes in the Southern Appalachian Spruce—Fir Forests
Andrew J. Laughlin, Istvan Karsai, Fred J. Alsop III
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Guilds of species that share ecological similarities or recent ancestors are often the basis of studies concerning habitat partitioning. An interesting result of many of these studies is that means of partitioning in one area of sympatry may be different from those in disjunct areas of overlap. Here, we quantified the differences in habitat preference of two forest thrushes in the southern Appalachian Mountains. The Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus) has recently expanded its breeding range south along the spine of the Appalachians into the spruce—fir forests of Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. There, it shares breeding habitat with the congeneric Veery (C. fuscescens), previously the only forest thrush breeding in this area. We used several multivariate analyses of habitat variables within both species' territories to understand how these species partition the available habitat and to test if these means of partitioning are similar to those found by other studies. We calculated the niche overlap to be 0.248, indicating that the habitat structures preferred by these two species are highly distinct. Hermit Thrushes generally preferred forest with a high degree of canopy closure, high percent coverage of leaf litter, and low percent cover below 3.0 m. Veery territories generally had a high percent of cover between 0.5 and 3.0 m (i.e., the shrub layer) and less canopy closure than the Hermit Thrush plots. Our data suggest that the Hermit Thrush is expanding south because it is attracted to the maturing of the spruce forests in this region.

© 2013 by The Cooper Ornithological Society. All rights reserved. Please direct all requests for permission to photocopy or reproduce article content through the University of California Press's Rights and Permissions website,
Andrew J. Laughlin, Istvan Karsai, and Fred J. Alsop III "Habitat Partitioning and Niche Overlap of Two Forest Thrushes in the Southern Appalachian Spruce—Fir Forests," The Condor 115(2), 394-402, (1 May 2013).
Received: 27 October 2011; Accepted: 1 October 2012; Published: 1 May 2013

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