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Seed Dispersal by Corvids

Seed Dispersal by Corvids

Birds That Build Forests

(p.196) Chapter Seven Seed Dispersal by Corvids
Why Birds Matter
Diana F. Tomback
University of Chicago Press

Birds of the family Corvidae, which comprise the familiar jays, magpies, crows, ravens, and their allies, occur nearly worldwide. They include species that are common human commensals in urban and rural landscapes, as well as species that occupy more remote wildlands. Many corvids store excess food for later use, preventing access by conspecifics or other competitors and concealing it in hiding places such as crevices and under objects, but also by burying food under soil, litter, or other substrate. For seed-eaters, which are predominantly granivorous corvids, seeds are moved away from parent trees, and prolonged storage may frequently lead to seed germination and plant regeneration. These granivorous corvids are often scatter-hoarders, placing one or more seeds in many different locations. Several corvid species are dependable seed dispersers for various woody plant taxa, and particularly pines, oaks, beeches and chestnuts, resulting in coevolution and coadaptation. Seed-storing corvid species help shape forest composition and distribution across landscapes, facilitate response to changing climate, and regenerate communities after disturbance. Examples illustrate economic valuation of corvid seed dispersal services and demonstrate how declining seed dispersal services of an obligate corvid mutualist for a widespread forest tree already have apparent consequences.

Keywords:   corvidae, coevolution, human commensal, regeneration, scatter hoarding, seed storage

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