The Chinese tallow tree (Sapium sebiferum) (Euphorbiaceae) was introduced into coastal Texas in the late 1800s and forms monotypic woodlands once naturalized. However, few studies have examined avian use of tallow seeds during fall migration in coastal Texas. We documented use of Chinese tallow seeds and compared foraging frequency on Chinese tallow seeds among permanent, summer, and winter residents and migrants. We also tested the hypothesis that Chinese tallow seed germination was enhanced by foraging activities of yellow-rumped warblers (Dendroica coronata), the most common species observed foraging on tallow seeds. During fall migration 1995 and 1996, 24 species were observed foraging on Chinese tallow seeds. Yellow-rumped warblers and Baltimore orioles (Icterus galbula) accounted for 72% of all tallow seed feeding observations. Winter residents foraged upon Chinese tallow seeds more frequently (P<0.001) than summer residents, permanent residents, and migrants. Chinese tallow seed germination rates did not vary (P = 1.0) between seeds collected after yellow-rumped warbler feeding activities (2.5%) and those collected directly from seed bearing trees (2.5%). The high levels of fatty acids and oils in Chinese tallow seeds may be more important for winter residents than migrants or other groups of birds. Although germination is not enhanced by yellow-rumped warbler feeding activities, they may serve as dispersal agents, potentially enhancing future tallow expansion.
Conway, Warren C., "Avian Use of Chinese Tallow Seeds in Coastal Texas (Abstract)" (2002). Faculty Publications. 305.