DNA metabarcoding allows non-invasive identification of arthropod prey provisioned to nestling Rufous hummingbirds (Selasphorus rufus)
Moran, Alison J.
Prosser, Sean J. W.
Hummingbirds consume sugars from nectar, sap and honeydew, and obtain protein, fat and minerals from arthropods. To date, the identity of arthropod taxa in hummingbird diets has been investigated by observation of foraging or examination of alimentary tract contents. Direct examination of nestling provisioning adds the extra complication of disturbance to the young and mother. Here, we show that arthropod food items provisioned to Rufous hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) nestlings can be identified by a safe and non-invasive protocol using next-generation sequencing (NGS) of DNA from nestling fecal pellets collected post-fledging. We found that females on southern Vancouver Island (British Columbia, Canada) provisioned nestlings with a wide range of arthropod taxa. The samples examined contained three Classes, eight Orders, 48 Families, and 87 Genera, with from one to 15 Families being identified in a single pellet. Soft-bodied Dipterans were found most frequently and had the highest relative abundance; hard-bodied prey items were absent from almost all samples. Substantial differences in taxa were found within season and between years, indicating the importance of multi-year sampling when defining a prey spectrum.