Regional variation in the composition and structure of mixed-species bird flocks in the Western Ghats and Sri Lanka

Publication Type:

Journal Articles


Current Science, Volume 97, Number 5, p.648–663 (2009)



biogeography, Bird communities, mixedspecies flocks, Western Ghats.


Mixed-species bird flocks are attractive models for the investigation of geographical variation in animal communities, as they represent a subset of the avifauna in most forested regions of the world. Yet studies of the regional variation in flock size and the composition of flocks are few, due to the predominance of studies carried out at single study site. Here, we review nine studies of mixed-species flocks conducted at 16 sites along the Western Ghats in India and in Sri Lanka. We find that flock size varies as much within this region as it does globally, with observation time being a confounding variable. Flock composition, however, is predictably related to elevation. Flocks at high elevations (>1200 m) in the Western Ghats strongly resemble flocks at high elevations in the mountain ranges of Sri Lanka in their composition, especially at the family level. We compare these flocks to flocks of other regions and make recommendations on study methodology that can facilitate comparisons across studies.