The figs of winter: Seasonal importance of fruiting fig trees (Ficus: Moraceae) for urban birds

Bruno A. Walther, Jessica Geier, Lien Siang Chou, Anthony Bain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Birds and figs are conspicuous members of the tropical and subtropical ecosystems. Because they are easily observed and very speciose, their relationships have been well studied in many areas, and the figs are considered a keystone resource for many bird species which are efficient fig seed dispersers. Taiwan has a relatively high endemism rate for many taxa (17% of bird species) but because of its high human population density, most lowland habitats are heavily developed, of which much of it covered by dense urban habitation. To establish the importance of urban figs for birds, we focused our surveys mostly on three common urban fig species (Ficus caulocarpa, F. microcarpa and F. subpisocarpa). We observed trees with ripening figs from July 2013 to December 2016 in order to determine the composition of the fig-consuming bird community. In addition, we added all the information available in the scientific literature and birdwatchers' observations which we could find. In total, we observed 42 bird species consuming 18 fig species. The bird diversity in urban areas was non-negligible even during winter. Therefore, there are two reasons why figs are important for Taiwan's bird avifauna: in cities, the tree diversity is generally low so that figs provide a stable food resource; and since figs are fruiting all year-round, they are one of the few reliable resources available during winter when many migrant birds overwinter in Taiwan. Already crucial for many species in tropical and subtropical forests, fig trees may also be essential for urban birds in tropical and subtropical regions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-34
Number of pages7
JournalActa Oecologica
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018


  • Animal-plant interactions
  • Bird
  • Ficus
  • Frugivory
  • Urban fauna

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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