Title

Cavity Nests in Cacti: Influences of Geology and Microclimate in a Tropical Dry Forest in Mexico

Presenter Information

Amara McBride
Lewis Meyers
Greg Moeller

Document Type

Oral Presentation

Location

SURC Ballroom A

Start Date

17-5-2012

End Date

17-5-2012

Abstract

Many species of desert birds appear to orient their nest entrances non-randomly, which can serve to regulate the interior temperature of their nests. This study focused on the golden cheeked woodpecker (Melanerpes chrysogenys) that makes its home in the large, tree-like cardon hecho cactus (Pachycereus pecten-aboriginum). The study took place in Jalisco, Mexico during mid-March, 2012 at the Chamela Biological Research Station in the tropical dry forest. We collected data to test the hypothesis that golden-cheeked woodpeckers in Chamela select non-random nest entrances. A secondary objective was to study how Hurricane Jova (October 2011) had affected woodpecker nesting habitat. We searched for hecho cacti and woodpecker cavity nests along ~8500 meters of established forested trails within the field station. For each cactus we encountered, data were recorded on number of cactus arms, cavity nest orientations, extent of damage (number of cactus arms broken off), and cacti elevation for that specific site. Of 61 cacti observed, 36 cavity nests were found; Woodpecker cavities were not randomly oriented, but rather faced in a northeastern direction, away from direct sunlight. Most nests were located on the upper third of the hillslopes, away from the thicker canopies of the lower valleys. Storm activity from hurricane Jova caused the greatest damage to hecho cacti located at higher elevations: 37% and 34% of potential nesting arms were lost from cacti on the upper and middle thirds of the slopes. Cacti on the lower third (near the valley floors) only lost 6% of their potential nesting habitat.

Poster Number

4

Faculty Mentor(s)

Lisa Ely, Daniel Beck

Additional Mentoring Department

Geological Sciences

Additional Mentoring Department

Biological Sciences

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May 17th, 8:30 AM May 17th, 11:00 AM

Cavity Nests in Cacti: Influences of Geology and Microclimate in a Tropical Dry Forest in Mexico

SURC Ballroom A

Many species of desert birds appear to orient their nest entrances non-randomly, which can serve to regulate the interior temperature of their nests. This study focused on the golden cheeked woodpecker (Melanerpes chrysogenys) that makes its home in the large, tree-like cardon hecho cactus (Pachycereus pecten-aboriginum). The study took place in Jalisco, Mexico during mid-March, 2012 at the Chamela Biological Research Station in the tropical dry forest. We collected data to test the hypothesis that golden-cheeked woodpeckers in Chamela select non-random nest entrances. A secondary objective was to study how Hurricane Jova (October 2011) had affected woodpecker nesting habitat. We searched for hecho cacti and woodpecker cavity nests along ~8500 meters of established forested trails within the field station. For each cactus we encountered, data were recorded on number of cactus arms, cavity nest orientations, extent of damage (number of cactus arms broken off), and cacti elevation for that specific site. Of 61 cacti observed, 36 cavity nests were found; Woodpecker cavities were not randomly oriented, but rather faced in a northeastern direction, away from direct sunlight. Most nests were located on the upper third of the hillslopes, away from the thicker canopies of the lower valleys. Storm activity from hurricane Jova caused the greatest damage to hecho cacti located at higher elevations: 37% and 34% of potential nesting arms were lost from cacti on the upper and middle thirds of the slopes. Cacti on the lower third (near the valley floors) only lost 6% of their potential nesting habitat.