Re ECF Project: 2013-01

Project Title: Assessment of the ecological role of birds in Hong Kong's secondary forests

Applicant: Dr. Ng Cho Nam of Hong Kong Bird Watching Society

Total Approved Grant: $484,000

Duration: 1/7/2014 to 29/2/2016

Project Status/Remarks: Project completion to be reviewed by the ECF Research Projects Vetting Subcommittee

Scope:
The purpose of the project is to assess the bird-dispersed seed-rain in Hong Kong's secondary forests throughout a year, in order to investigate the role of avifauna on ecological succession. By conducting a bird-ringing scheme and collection of bird faecal samples in selected secondary forests in Hong Kong, the project aims to-
  • elucidate the seasonality of fruit preference of forest bird species in Hong Kong;
  • quantify the seed dispersal ability of different bird groups;
  • identify the plant species that are dispersed by birds and assess the germination rate of seeds collected from the fecal samples;
  • understand the activity patterns of the forest-inhabiting bird species and
  • identify plant species that are suitable for being used in future plantation.

Summary of the Findings/Outcomes:
A total of 538 bird-captures, involving 407 individuals of 46 species, were achieved in 32 mist-net surveys in Tai Po Kau Nature Reserve. The dominant species were Red-billed Leiothrix, Red-flanked Bluetail, Huet’s Fulvetta and Cinereous Tit. Among the 46 bird species captured, 16 species were found to be frugivorous. At least 19 plant species were confirmed to be consumed by forest birds, including 9 trees, 5 shrubs, 1 herbaceous and 4 climbers. Chestnut Bulbul was the most important seed disperser in secondary forests, which consumed 10 plant species and 45% of their faecal samples contained seeds. Other important dispersers include Huet’s Fulvetta, Red-billed Leiothrix and Mountain Bulbul. Seeds were shown to remain largely viable after being processed based on the germination experiment. The results showed that Bulbuls play an important role in seed dispersal in forests. Naturalized bird species, such as Huet’s Fulvetta and Red-billed Leiothrix, could play a significant role given that their natural range is close to Hong Kong. Use of mist-net was found to be an effective method for bird survey in forests. The study demonstrated that numerous researches, including population studies, migration studies and responses of forest birds to environmental changes, could be established in future.