Bird responses to land use change: guild diversity in a Kenyan coastal forest and adjoining habitats

Land use change can have profound effects on forest ecology, particularly on the avian community. Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, one of the Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Kenya, is under threat due to ongoing land use change in the surroundings that could affect species composition of many bird guilds. However, information on the response of different guilds in tropical land use systems is sparse in Africa. We examined the effects of land use on bird guilds in primary forest (Arabuko-Sokoke Forest), adjoining plantations, and neighbouring farmland. Point counts were distributed equally in the three land use systems to survey bird populations. A total of 2600 bird observations was recorded, representing 97 species in five main feeding guilds (frugivores, nectarivores, insectivores, carnivores, and granivores). Granivores were most abundant and diverse in farmland, while carnivores (primarily raptors) utilised all habitats. Insectivores were most diverse in primary forest where vertical heterogeneity of the vegetation and the presence of large fruiting trees significantly influenced their occurrence. Specialist nectarivores were most frequent in primary forest, whereas occasional nectarivores were less abundant there. Contrary to expectation, frugivore diversity showed no significant effect of land use.