Preferences by Mourning Doves and Two Granivorous Songbirds for Selected Seeds

We used controlled experiments to assess the preferences and food value of a selection of native and agricultural plant seeds for mourning doves (Zenaida macroura), northern cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis), and brown-headed cowbirds (Molothrus ater). Foods used in experiments were browntop millet, cracked corn, black-oil sunflower, switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), deertongue (Panicum clandestinum), pokeberry (Phytolaca americana), and croton (Croton spp.). Browntop millet and black-oil sunflower were eaten significantly more than all other seeds. Cracked corn consumption was less than expected based on results from previous studies. Although consumption was comparatively low, switchgrass was the most preferred native plant. Planting a combination of switchgrass and browntop millet or sunflower is suggested as a strategy for establishing a native plant stand while holding birds on a site. Field plot trials need to be conducted to determine if inferences obtained from these captive feeding trials are valid under natural feeding conditions.

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