University of California Press
The global spread of invasive species has created significant challenges for avian conservation. Introduced predators and pathogens have long been recognized for their direct negative effects on birds, but introduced amphibians can reach high densities on islands with no native amphibians, where they interact with native species. The coqui frog (Eleutherodactylus coqui), introduced to the Hawaiian Islands in the late 1980s, could have significant impacts on birds because it is fully terrestrial and achieves high densities. Coquis have been hypothesized to compete with native birds for invertebrate prey, but could also serve as a novel food resource for birds that consume small vertebrates. To test whether coquis measurably affect bird abundance, we conducted point counts of birds in coqui-invaded and adjacent uninvaded plots across 15 sites on the island of Hawaii, USA. We used N-mixture models to estimate the effect of coqui presence and density on the abundances of both native and nonnative birds, while controlling for possible habitat differences between plots with and without coquis. We found that coquis were associated with ∼35% higher abundance of nonnative birds in general, and more specifically generalist birds that sometimes consume small vertebrates. We suggest that generalist birds increase in abundance with coquis primarily because coquis serve as an abundant food resource. While 4 native bird species co-occurred with coquis, native bird abundance (20% of our total observations) did not show a difference across coqui-invaded and uninvaded plots. Coquis do not appear to be important competitors with native birds in Hawaii, but the frogs are associated with increased abundances of some nonnative birds, which could induce undesirable ecosystem impacts.
Smith, Robyn L.; Beard, Karen H.; and Koons, David N., "Invasive coqui frogs are associated with greater abundances of nonnative birds in Hawaii, USA" (2017). Wildland Resources Faculty Publications. Paper 2630.