Functional ecology and structure of avian communities on the Andes


Status – Completed

Ecomorphometric analysis of a Tyrant-flycatcher community on San Lorenzo Ridge, Santa Marta Mountains (August 2008-present)


The study of interactions between organisms, especially competition, has been one of the principal focuses of ecology to explain the occurrence of species and community composition. These studies have been realised primarily in Europe and North America, and the information available in the Neotropics is not comparable. Although various studies exist that describe ecomorphological patterns in nectivorous and frugivorous birds in the Neotropics, the study of insectivores is limited. Given its high species richness and ecological diversity, the family Tyrannidae is an ideal group for looking at patterns in community composition. While there are classic studies about the foraging ecology and the relationship between morphology and ecology of this group, there are currently no studies involving a community of Neotropical flycatchers that examines the relationship between behaviour and morphology. This studie looks at the relation between eleven species of sympatric flycatchers, whose populations are isolated on the San Lorenzo ridge in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. As an initial look at patterns of ecology and phylogenetics in the communities of Tyrannidae in the Colombian Andes, we will look for relationships in ecology and morphology within species and try to identify the multidimensional space in which behaviours are limited by morphology.

Key findings & achievements

  • Behavioral analysis and abundance estimations reveal that co-existence of twelve species of Tyrant-Flycatchers on San Lorenzo between 1800 and 2700 masl is mediated by a hierarchical segregation that depends on the spatial scale: at a landscape scale, altitudinal distribution and habitat use are the primary segregation factors; at a smaller scale, ecological segregation such as differences in microhabitat use and feeding habits are the most relevant factors.
  • There are four groups based on altitudinal segregation: Myiarchus tuberculifer pallidus and Myiodinastes chrysocephalus cinerascens are observed in forests borders and coffee-shade plantations between 1800 and 2200 m; Mecocerculus leucophrys montensisMyiotheretes striaticollis striaticollis and Myiotheretes pernix (EN) are observed in forests borders and early successional areas between 2400 and 2700 m; Elaenia frantzii browniHemitriccus granadensis lehmanniMionectes olivaceus galbinusOchthoeca diadema jesupiPhyllomyias nigrocapillus flavimentum and Zimmerius chrysops minimus are frequently observed between 1900 and 2400 m; and Pyrrhomyias cinnamomeus assimilis, is a relatively common bird along the entire gradient.
  • Prey-search behavior reveals three main groups: H. g. lehmanniM. l. montensisP. n. flavimentum Z. c. minimus are active search (pursuit) predators; M. t. pallidusM. c. cinerascensM. s. striaticollisM. pernix and P. c. assimilis are sedentary predators; the remainder species use an intermediate strategy to search potential prey.
  • Attack behavior reveals a more specific organization than the other aspects studied, although there are similarities with the organization patterns obtained from the search behavior analysis. The main groups included: birds that primordially use leaps to catch their prey; aerial hawkers; strikers or sally-gleaners; perch-gleaners; generalists.
  • Excepting H. g. lehmanni P. c. assimilis, behavioral analysis reveals that closely related species exhibit greater ecological similarity.


None at the present time

Documents to Download

None at the present time


  • Botero-Delgadillo, E. & Bayly, N. (accepted) Does morphology predict behavior? Correspondence between behavioral and morphometric data in a Tyrant-flycatcher (Tyrannidae) assemblage in the Santa Marta Mountains, Colombia. Journal of Field Ornithology.
  • Botero-Delgadillo, E. (2011) Cuantificando el comportamiento: Estratégias de búsqueda y ecología de forrajeo de 12 especies sintópicas de Atrapamoscas (Tyrannidae) en la Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia. Revista Brasileira de Ornitologia 19: 343-357. Contact
Publications in preparation
  • Botero-Delgadillo, E. (in prep) Ecología funcional de los atrapamoscas (Tyrannidae) de San Lorenzo, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta: Fichas técnicas de sus perfiles ecológicos.


SELVA’a role in this research is currently voluntary. If you would like to help fund this project please contact

Project Staff

Project director – Dr. Esteban Botero-Delgadillo