Can increased niche opportunities and release from enemies explain the success of introduced Yellowhammer populations in New Zealand?

C.J. Macleod, R.P. Duncan, D.M.B. Parish, S.D. Wratten, S.F. Hubbard

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    17 Citations (Scopus)


    Some introduced species succeed spectacularly, becoming far more abundant in their introduced than in their native range. 'Increased niche opportunities' and 'release from enemy regulation' are two hypotheses that have been advanced to explain the enhanced performance of introduced species in their new environments. Using an introduced bird species, the Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella, which was first released in New Zealand in 1862, as a model, we tested some predictions based on these hypotheses. By quantifying habitat availability and quality, and measuring nest predation rates, we investigated whether increased niche opportunities or release from nest predation could explain the higher density of the Yellowhammer in New Zealand farmland, compared to farmland in their native Britain. Yellowhammer territory densities were over three times higher in New Zealand (0.40 territories per ha) than in comparable British farmland (0.12 territories per ha), and Yellowhammer densities remained significantly higher in New Zealand, after accounting for differences in habitat availability. The density and diversity of invertebrates, a key food resource for nestling Yellowhammers, was significantly lower in New Zealand than in Britain. Hence, these aspects of niche availability and quality cannot explain the higher density of Yellowhammers in New Zealand. Nest predation rates in New Zealand were similar to those in Britain, suggesting that release from nest predation also could not account for the higher density of Yellowhammers in New Zealand. Differences in winter survival, due to differences in winter food supply or the severity of the winter climate, along with release from other types of 'enemy' regulation are possible alternative explanations.
    Original languageUndefined
    Pages (from-to)598-607
    Number of pages10
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2005

    Cite this