Human-modified habitats amplify seasonal differences for bird flocks in the Amazon

by Annabelle Stokes, Louisiana State University

Recent LSU doctoral graduate, Cameron Rutt, spent 15 months in the Brazilian Amazon collecting data for his dissertation. Rutt uses his binoculars to track the movement of mixed-species flocks. Photo courtesy of Scott Kosiba.

The Amazon Rainforest is often thought of as a place of perpetual heat and rain. While this may be true most of the year, it is not an unchanging environment. The central Amazon undergoes seasonal changes, which have been found to affect the animals that live there, including mixed-species flocks of forest birds.

The Amazon’s seasons have different characteristics than those of the temperate zones, which are usually marked by changing day length and temperature. In the Amazon, however, there are two distinct seasons defined by rainfall – a wet and a dry season.

Cameron Rutt, a recent graduate from the School of Renewable Natural Resources at LSU, spent 15 months in the Brazilian Amazon collecting data for his dissertation. He spent over 500 hours wading through the forests following mixed-species flocks – recording species composition and tracking flock movements with a handheld GPS. 

“My research often looked a lot like glorified bushwhacking,” says Rutt when asked about his time spent in the Amazon. “I would spend the day walking through the rainforest, finding a flock, and then trying my best to follow its every move for the next three hours. And then go off in search of another flock and hit repeat.”

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