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Capsule: Pollen encrusted around the bill of migrating warblers can reveal marked differences in foraging ecology between bird species. Aims: To examine patterns of the prevalence and diversity of pollen in four species of warbler, and explore the potential of pollen to act as an indicator of recent foraging behaviour. Methods: By isolating pollen from bill encrustations using laboratory palynological techniques and identification by light microscopy, we examined variation in the prevalence of the five most common pollen taxa, and variation in pollen assemblages in four species of warbler arriving on the south coast of England. Results: All samples contained abundant pollen, with 19 floral taxa identified. Sylvia warblers tended to carry Prunus and Citrus pollen, while Phylloscopus warblers mainly carried Eucalyptus pollen. Pollen assemblages varied markedly between bird species. Conclusion: Commercial and garden flowering trees are an important resource for migrating warblers. Pollen may be such a valuable resource that flowering plants might be included in the conservation management of stopover sites. The use of pollen to resolve migratory routes may be problematic however, requiring detailed knowledge of both the distribution and flowering phenology of plants en route. © 2014 British Trust for Ornithology.

Original publication




Journal article


Bird Study

Publication Date





361 - 370