Orinoquia

Orinoquia, Volumen 17, Número 2, p. 207-214, 2013. ISSN electrónico 2011-2629. ISSN impreso 0121-3709.

Documento sin título

ARTÍCULO ORIGINAL/ORIGINAL  ARTICLE

Crossing or bypassing the Andes: a commentary on recent range extensions of cisAndean birds to the West of the Andes of Colombia

Cruzando o desviando los Andes: un comentario sobre extensiones de distribución recientes de aves cisAndinas al oeste de los Andes de Colombia

Cruzando  ou desviando  os Andes: um comentário sobre extensões de distrubuição recentes  de aves cisAndinas ao oeste dos Andes da Colômbia.

Jorge E. Avendaño1,2, José O. CortésHerrera3, Elkin R. BriceñoLara4, Diego A. RincónGuarín5

1          Museo de Historia Natural  “Jorge Ignacio Hernández Camacho”, Instituto Alexander von Humboldt, Claustro San Agustín, Villa de Leyva, Colombia.

2          Present address:  Programa de Biología y Museo de Historia Natural,  Universidad  de los Llanos, VillavicencioMeta, Colombia.

3          Instituto de Ciencias Naturales,  Universidad  Nacional  de Colombia,  Bogotá, Colombia.

4          Corporación  Autónoma  Regional de Santander, San Gil, Colombia.

5          Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Apartado 084303092, Balboa, Ancón,  Panamá. Email: jorgeavec@gmail.com

Recibido: Febrero 10 de 2013        Aceptado: Septiembre 19 de 2013

Resumen

Varias especies de aves cisAndinas (i.e. OrinocoAmazonas) han sido reportadas recientemente en la vertiente occidental de la Cordillera  Oriental y el valle medio del Magdalena de Colombia (i.e. transAndes). En este artículo presentamos los registros adicionales para tres de estas especies. El Colibrí Llanero (Polytmus guainumbi), la Mirla Caripelada (Turdus nudigenis) y el Chango Llanero (Quiscalus lugubris). Reportamos por primera vez el Moriche  Blanco (Cissopis leverianus) en la región transAndina. También discutimos algunas hipótesis que explicarían estos registros transAndinos con base en la ecología de estas especies y las características del paisaje.  Dada la acelerada tasa de pérdida de hábitat y fragmentación a lo largo de las laderas Andinas y tierras bajas circundantes, en conjunto con el efecto del calentamiento global sobre los rangos de las especies,  sugerimos que las expansiones a través y alrededor de los Andes podrían ser más comunes durante las próximas décadas. Las especies generalistas podrían liderar las expansiones, mientras que las especies especialistas podrían enfrentar reducciones poblacionales debido a sus limitadas habilidades de dispersión. Estos registros evidencian la necesidad de monitorear la transformación del paisaje, la colonización y viabilidad de las poblaciones de aves, así como la necesidad de continuar el trabajo de campo, incluso en regiones consideradas relativamente bien muestreadas en el país.

Palabras clave: Dispersión, extensión de distribución, levantamiento de los Andes, pasos de montaña, transAndino, transformación del paisaje

Abstract

Several cisAndean (i.e. OrinocoAmazon) bird species have been recently recorded on the west slope of the Cordillera Oriental and the middle  Magdalena valley, in Colombia (i.e. transAndes). Here, we provide additional records for three of these species. Whitetailed Goldenthroat (Polytmus  guainumbi), Spectacled Thrush (Turdus nudigenis) and Carib Grackle (Quiscalus  lugubris). We report Magpie Tanager (Cissopis leverianus) for the first time in the transAndean region. We also discuss some hypotheses explaining  these transAndean records  based  on the ecology of these  species and landscape characteristics. Given the accelerated rate of habitat loss and fragmentation along  the Andean slopes and adjacent lowlands, coupled with the effect of global warming on species’ ranges, we suggest that cross and bypassAndean expansions could become more common in the next decades. Generalist species could lead those expansions, whereas specialist species could face population reductions due to their limited dispersal abilities. These records show the necessity of monitoring the dynamics between landscape transformation, colonization and population viability of birds, and continuing fieldwork, even in areas considered relatively well sampled in the country.

Key words: Andean uplift, dispersal, landscape transformation, mountain passes, range extension, trans-Andean

Resumo

Várias espécies de aves cisAndinas  (ex. OrinocoAmazonas) têm sido reportadas recentemente na vertente ocidental da cordilheira Oriental  e o vale Meio do Magdalena, em Colômbia (ex. transAndes). Nesse artigo apresentamos registros adicionais para três dessas  espécies. Beijaflordebicocurvo (Polytmus guainumbi), Caraxué (Turdus nudigenis) e Iraúnado norte (Quiscalus lugubris).Reportamos pela primeira vez a Tietinga (Cissopis leverianus) na região transAndina.  Também discutimos algumas hipóteses que explicariam esses registros transAndinos  com base na ecologia  dessas espécies e características da paisagem.  Devido à acelerada taxa de perda de habitat e fragmentação ao longo das encostas Andinas e terras baixas ao redor, em conjunto como efeito do aquecimento global sobre o território das espécies, sugerimos que as expansões através e ao redor dos Andes poderiam ser mais comuns durante as próximas décadas; As espécies generalistas liderar as expansões, enquanto que as espécies especialistas poderiam enfrentar reduções populacionais por causa de suas limitadas habilidades de dispersão. Esses registros mostram a necessidade de monitorar a transformação da paisagem, a colonização e a viabilidade das populações de aves, assim como continuar o trabalho de campo, incluso nas regiões consideradas relativamente bem amostradas no país.

Palavras chaves: Dispersão, extensão de distribuição, levantamento dos Andes, passagem de montanha, trans Andino, transformação da paisagem

Introduction

The Eastern Cordillera  (Cordillera Oriental)  of Colombia have played a significant role in the biogeography of northwestern South America, by separating  tropical lowland  forests of the Amazonian basin from those of west  of the  Andes in Colombia and Central America (Chapman 1917;  Haffer, 1967;  Brumfield and  Caparella 1996). However, of 1410 tropical lowland evergreen forest species, only about 10% (146) occur in both east and west of the Andes (Stotz et al., 1996). The occurrence of species with predominantly Amazonian distributions in the west of the Andes is often explained by four additive mechanisms operating at different time scales: (i) species could have been widely distributed in the whole northwestern South America before the final uplift of the Andes (Chapman 1917); (ii) dispersal over low passes in the northern Andes (Chapman, 1917); (iii) dispersal via corridors of tropical wet forest or grasslands around the northern tip of the Colombian Andes during the Quaternary (Haffer, 1967); and (iv) recent range extensions  caused by deforestation, which facilitates expansion of nonforest dwelling species (i.e. grassland and/or open country species).

In recent  decades, many  studies  have  improved our knowledge about distribution  of Colombian birds. However, most of them have focused on forested and remote areas in the Andes, while less attention has been devoted to the distribution of open country species, which could be favored by current forest fragmentation (e.g.  Stiles et  al.,  1999;  ABO, 2000; De las Casas et al., 2004;  Estela and LópezVictoria, 2005; Estela et al., 2005; EcheverryGalvis and MoralesRozo, 2007; JohnstonGonzáles et al., 2006; Cuervo et  al.,  2007;  Donegan et  al., 2007; Avendaño 2012; Donegan 2012). Recently, some predominantly Amazonian species (cisAndes) have been recorded in the west of the Andes of Colombia (transAndes) (Freeman et al., 2012). However, little discussion has been developed about the ecological and biogeographical implications of these range extensions.  Here, we give new data for three  predominantly Amazonian species that  have been recently recorded in the Caribbean region and middle Magdalena valley of northern Colombia, and present the first records west of the Andes for one bird species heretofore known to occur only in the lowlands  and foothills east of the Eastern Cordillera. All records are based on field observations, and museum specimens support two of them. Finally, we discuss some possible causes mediating the presence of these species in the west of the Andes.

Materials and methods

We gathered field records during different surveys in several localities in departments of Cesar, Norte de Santander and Santander,  among 2004 and 2011. In most localities, we made visual and auditory records during extensive  observations (15 km), supplemented by mistnet captures and taperecordings. However, some records correspond to opportunistic observations or were gathered in non systematic surveys. Therefore, sampling is not equivalent in time or effort at all localities. A few voucher specimens were collected and deposited at Instituto de Ciencias Naturales (ICN) in the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá.

Museum  specimens of Polytmus  guanumbi from the Chocó department, kept in the bird collection of Instituto Alexander von Humboldt (IAvHA), were compared with Orinoco specimens housed  at ICN with the aim of assessing for possible phenotypic differences  at the populational level. Details on geographic coordinates and elevation for all localities are presented in Table 1. Nomenclature and phylogenetic order follow Remsen et al. (2013).

Table 1. List of 17 localities across the Eastern Cordillera, middle Magdalena valley and Chocó referenced in the text(in brackets). Localities are numbered in ascending order of latitude, south to north.

Results

Whitetailed Goldenthroat (Polytmus guainumbi)

This hummingbird has a large distribution in South America ranging the savannas, surrounding the Amazon basin, from Argentina to Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago. To the north of the Amazon River, it inha bits the savannas (Llanos) of Colombia and Venezuela from the eastern foothills of the Eastern Cordillera and the Mérida Andes to the Guianas and northern Brazil (Schuchmann, 1999). It favors damp or marshy grasslands mainly, and pastures especially in vicinity of water, from sea level to 600 m, reaching 1,500 m south the Orinoco in Venezuela (Hilty, 2003). Seven specimens (IAvHA 311621, 4458) of this species were collected in the Chocó Biogeographic region of northwest Colombia. It was found at three localities (1113) along the margins of the Atrato River, at Los Katíos National Park by staff of INDERENA, during 197579 (Fig. 1). Although this population was reported by Rodríguez Mahecha (1982), these records have been overlooked by recent publications (Hilty and Brown 1986; Schuchmann, 1999; Restall et al., 2006; McMullan et al., 2010). Two more transAndean records came from the foothills of west slope of Eastern Cordillera, in Santander. JEA observed this species at the swamp known as El Humedal (4) on 29 November 2006 hovering around small flowering shrubs in the middle of the swamp, but did not observe it in gal lery forests, grasslands or pineapple crops around the swamp. Close to this locality, JOCH observed one individual along Las Tapias stream (5) on 10 July 2008 foraging from an exotic plant (Spathodea campanulata). Recently, Freeman et al., (2012) recorded the species on 23 May 2010 below Ocaña (14) (c. 700 m), department of Norte de Santander, in the west slope of the Cordillera. These records suggest that, in addition to its widespread occurrence east of the Andes, the species has a local distribution in the Atrato and middle Magdalena valley, apparently restricted to riverine habitats and freshwater swamps from sea level to 1,300 m.

Figure 1.Ventral, lateral and dorsal views of two male specimens of P. guainumbi, from Colombia. Left: ICN 30998 from Campamento  Caño Limón, Arauca, collected on March 27 1991. Right: IAVHA 3116 from vereda Peye, P.N.N. Los Katíos, Riosucio, Chocó, collected on August 3 1976.

Spectacled Thrush (Turdus nudigenis)

This species is found in gallery forest borders, semiopen areas with scattered groves of trees and semiurban areas east of the Andes from Colombia to the Guianas and northeast Brazil (Hilty, 2003). It ranges in the lowlands east of the Andes in Colombia, from the Catatumbo region in Norte de Santander to the Llanos in Meta department, with the highest records at midelevations (1,5001,600 m) on the east slope of the East ern Cordillera (Hilty and  Brown, 1986). The species was collected near to the east ridge of the Cordillera, in a cultivated area at Convención (15), Norte de Santander (ICN 35345), on 24 March 2004.  However, confirmed transAndean records of T. nudigenis came from one specimen (ICN 35807) and single individuals observed from May to November 2005 at small forest patches at the Cañaverales and El Puente farms (7), in Santander. In addition, the northernmost record west of the Cordillera corresponds to an individual observed on 4 June 2011 close to shrubs in pasture lands on the west slope of Serranía de Perijá at the Casacará River (16), Cesar department. The southernmost record comes from Reinita Cielo Azul reserve (2) in the west slope of the Serranía de los Yariguíes, Santander, where it was recorded on July 2010 and August 2011 (Freeman et al., 2012).

Magpie Tanager (Cissopis leverianus)

This tanager is widely distributed in the lowlands, up to 1,200 m east of the Andes from northeast Argentina to the Andes of Venezuela, where it ranges up to 2,000 m (Isler and Isler, 1999). It inhabits shrubby and regenerating clearings in humid forests, open woodlands, river edges, and also plantations (Isler and Isler, 1999; Hilty, 2003). It occurs in the lowlands east of the Eastern Cordillera from Norte de Santander south to Amazonas departments (Hilty and Brown, 1986).  ERBL and JEA recorded groups of 35 individuals of this species at four localities (6, 810) along the west slope of the Cordillera in the department of Santander, between 2004 and 2007.  All records were made along forest borders or in grasslands with scattered trees between 1,500 m and 1,750 m. Recently, DARG and JEA observed a pair on 14 June 2011 visiting tall bushes and forest borders close to pastures on the west slope of Serranía de Perijá at the Casacará river (16).

Carib Grackle (Quiscalus lugubris)

This grackle is commonly known from the Llanos, in Eastern Colombia, to the Guianas, the mouth of Amazon in Brazil, and the Lesser Antilles, with some populations introduced in Tobago and Aruba, and vagrants recorded in Bonaire (Restall et al., 2006). It favors open and semi open habitats with scattered trees, urban and seaside areas, and also the edges of gallery forests from the sea level to 850 m (Hilty, 2003; Restall et al., 2006). Recent evidence suggests that it is spreading to the west of the Andes through two distinct routes due to deforestation. One is along the Caribbean coast of northern Venezuela, in Falcón state (Hilty, 2003), possibly resulting in the recent colonization of the Guajira peninsula and Caribbean coast in Colombia (Strewe et al., 2006).  The species  was recorded along  the Santa Marta and Barrancabermeja highway, during February 2011, with the southernmost record  at Puerto Boyacá, department of Boyacá (Freeman et al., 2012). The most recent records come from a group of three males and six females  that visited some bushes scattered in grasslands at 1,400  m on the west slope of Serranía de Perijá, in the Casacará River (16), Cesar department. After five minutes foraging, the group flew to the low and more deforested part of the River. The species was also observed in the urban area of Agustín Codazzi (17), where it is apparently common. Moreover, JEA observed a pair on 27 September 2011 at the urban area of the municipality of Piedecuesta (3), Santander. Besides, four individuals of Q. lugubris were recorded at the Tibanica wetland (1) in the Altiplano Cundiboyacense region (ABO, 2000).

Discussion

The records brought here are into two classes: grasslandrestricted species previously unrecorded west of the Andes or overlooked in museums (P. guainumbi), and opencountry species (T. nudigenis, C. leverianus, and Q. lugubris) that have presumably expanded their distributions recently.  The former group includes one species of savanna grasslands (P.  guainumbi).  Haffer (1967)  hypothesized the expansion of grasslands through the northern tip of the Andes (i.e. the Guajira peninsula). According to him, during several dry climatic periods of the Pleistocene and postPleistocene the northern tip of the Andes was a possible route (“bypassing the Andes”) for the colonization of nonforest species in the Caribbean lowlands of northern Colombia. Sea levels were lower and lowland grassland areas were more extensive during these periods (RamírezBarahona and Eguiarte 2013). Indeed, the lack of phenotypic differences between cis and transAndean populations (F. G. Stiles pers. com.)  could make  this scenario more likely than an earlier vicariant event. Dispersal through open environments associated with watercourses is possible in P. guainumbi, because species associated with these habitats  are expected to show  better  dispersal  capabilities  than closedforest species, allowing them to track the seasonal dynamics of riverine environments (Cadena et al., 2011). Alternatively, the transAnde an populations could correspond to relicts isolated during the Andean uplift. The scarcity of records of P. guainumbi in the transAndean region is similar to that of other widely distributed cisAndean speciesthat have been recently recorded to the west of the Andes (Dromococcyx  pavoninus (Hilty and  Brown, 1986; Cuervo et al., 2008; Freeman  t al., 2012, Do negan 2012) and Megascops guatemalae (Freeman et al., 2012)).

These species have been overlooked possibly due to shortcomings in ornithological samplings, coupled with the local and apparently low abundance of their transAndean populations. Whether the transAndean populations of P. guainumbi are the result of a demographic expansion during the Pleistocene/postPleisto cene or were isolated from the Amazonian populations during the uplift of the Andes, represent two mutually exclusive hypotheses that can be tested through phylogeographic and coalescent methods.

The second group of records (T. nudigenis, C. leverianus and Q. lugubris) corresponds to range expansions of opencountry species probably facilitated by deforestation. Indeed, birds inhabiting forest edge are less sensitive to habitat disturbance. They are more prone to crossing habitat gaps and open areas than their counterparts restricted to the (Şeker cioğlu et al., 2002).  Moreover, recent evidence suggests that canopymidstory species have higher dispersal propensity, on average, than understory birds due to several factors such as their heterogeneous habitat preferences, less dietary specialization and greater fluctuations in local and seasonal abundance (Burney and Brumfield, 2009). These factors combined with the current maximum altitudinal range of T. nudigenis and C. leverianus,  c. 1,2001,600 m on the east slope of the Eastern Cordillera, suggests that colonization of the west slope and of the middle Magdalena valley could have  occurred through low mountain passes such as the depression (c. 1,400 m) that connects the Serranía de los Motilones with the rest of the Eastern Cordillera, in Ocaña, Norte de Santander. Both species have been recorded there. Supporting this crossAndean dispersal at the Ocaña depression  are recent records at the west slope of several east slope species such as Scaled Piculet Picumnus  squamulatus, Redcrowned Ant Tanager Habia rubica and Burnishedbuff Tanager Tangara cayana (Freeman et al., 2012).

As T. nudigenis is a popular cage bird in the Llanos (F. G. Stiles pers. com.) and escaped individuals  of C. leverianus  have been observed in Antioquia (A. M. Cuervo pers. com.), It arises questions like whether the west slope records in the Eastern Cordillera correspond to introduced or escaped birds.  We consulted databases on illegal trade bird species in the Santander department during the past fourteen years (data from CDMB and CAS environmental government corporations). Most of the confiscated birds by these corporations are usually released. However, we did not find any record of illegal trade or release of T. nudigenis or C. leverianus. In the case of C. leverianus, ERBL and others conducted 25 inquiries in 2004 with families in vereda La Judía where the species was first recorded. The results showed that C. leverianus was seen for the first time in the area in 20032004. None of those consulted families admitted to have kept this species as a cage bird. Therefore, the available data do not show evidence of a possible introduction of these species, at least, in Santander department.

The presence of Q. lugubris on the Altiplano Cundiboyacense is more complex to explain. If the species crossed the Andes via a low pass, the nearest is Las Cruces (Andalucía) Pass (c. 1,200 m) in Huila department. As a result, several populations might be expected along the eastern foothills of the upper Magdalena valley, where it has not been recorded till now. Alternatively, the species could have ascended the Andes from the Llanos. Indeed,  the species  may have moved up the dry Río Negro valley (east slope  of the Cordillera) as it has been recorded near Cáqueza (c. 800 m); but this implies that it has crossed a considerably higher pass (El Boquerón  de Chipaque, c. 3150  m) in the Cerros Orientales of Bogotá (F. G. Stiles pers. com.). Therefore, a process of introduction is a more plausible hypothesis for explaining the presence of Q.  lugubris on the Altiplano.  The arriving of Molothrus bonariensis on the Sabana de Bogotá (Jiménez and Cadena, 2004) stands this hypothesis. However, the Perijá and Cáqueza records show that Q. lugubris has the potential to colonize higher elevations than previously were known. The species is known for making local movements in the Llanos (Restall et al., 2006).  Dispersal to the highlands could be enhanced through a steppingstone process tracking open or fragmented habitats along the Andean slopes. Indeed, many low elevation species from the west slope of the Cordillera seem to have colonized the Altiplano following this process, for the last 1030 years (ABO, 2000). The records from Piedecuesta (this study) and Puerto Boyacá (Freeman et al., 2012) are noteworthy in showing the high dispersal ability of this species, which has expanded its range to the middle Magdalena valley by c. 600  km in six years, since it was recorded for first time in Magdalena department (Strewe et al., 2006).

There is increasing evidence of range expansions by deforestation  in the middle  Magdalena and Cauca  valleys (Stiles et al., 1999,  GarcésRestrepo et al., 2012),  the Chocó  (JohnstonGonzáles et al., 2006),  and  the  Amazonian foothills (Salaman  et al., 2002).  There is also evidence of expansions of lowland species recently established in the Altiplano Cundiboyancese (ABO, 2000; ZuluagaBonilla, 2006).  Previous to these records, just one crossAndean expansion had been reported in Colombia.  The Scrub Tanager (Tangara vitriolina) has colonized  the east slope of the Eastern Cordillera, possibly through the head  of the Magdalena valley (Salaman et al., 2002).  However,  the records  brought  here  suggest that  cross  and  bypassAndean expansions could  become  more  common in the  next  decades, due  to the current  fragmentation of the Andean forests, the accelerated  transformation of natural ecosystems in the low lands of the Amazon, Pacific and the savannas of the Orinoco plains (Etter and van Wyngaarden, 2000), and projected effects of global warming on the range of species in Colombia  (VelásquezTibatáet al., 2012).

In fact, a recent metaanalysis found that the distribution of many terrestrial organisms has shifted recently to higher elevations at a median rate of 11.0 m per decade, and to higher latitudes at a median rate of 16.9 km per decade (Chen et al., 2011). It is assumed that these shifts result because species track their optimal habitat in response to the rearrangement of climate zones.  As climate warming displaces climate zones  uphill,  low land forest specialists or poor dispersal species could be greater  affected  in comparison with generalists  or high dispersal  species  (Warren  et  al.,  2001; VelásquezTi batá  et al., 2012).  For specialists,  uphill or northward dispersal will depend on the availability of suitable habitat  patches  and  their ability to cross through  fragmented  or open habitats. Therefore, uphill expansion in specialists could mean a cost in population size due to range reduction and fragmentation (Gaston, 1994).  In contrast, the higher resilience to habitat fragmentation and greater dispersal abilities of generalist species could help them to track their habitat requirements. Therefore, it is expected that future bird range extensions, crossing or bypassing the Andes, is led for generalist species mainly (i.e. open country, savanna, and freshwater species). In sum,  the records discussed here highlight the importance of monitoring fragmented habitats in order to understand the dynamics of landscape transformation, bird colonization and population viability, as well as the need for continuing field work in areas considered  relatively wellsampled in Colombia (e.g. middle Magdalena and Atrato valleys).

Acknowledgments

We thank former collectors of the ornithological collection of Unidad Investigativa Federico Medem (UNIFEMINDERENA) and Instituto Alexander von Humboldt (IAvH) for the specimens we cited in this paper. F. G. Stiles helped  during specimen identification and loan to other museums. We thank C. Infante and L. Ríos for their help in the field, and S. Sierra (IAvH) for assistance in the museum. C. A. Medina (IAvH) facilitated the loan of specimens. Field work in Santander and Cesar was supported by Corporación Autónoma Regional para la Defensa de la Meseta de Bucaramanga (CDMB), Fundación Wii and Universidad del Magdalena as part of the management of the Casacará River watershed under the jurisdiction of Corpocesar. A. M. Cuervo, C. D. Cadena, T. M. Donegan, N. GutiérrezPinto, O. Laverde and F. G. Stiles provided useful comments at different stages of the manuscript.

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