El Niño and La Niña climatic oscillations have dramatic effects on population dynamics and community structure of different animals. For marine birds, El Niño phenomenon drastically increases their mortality and reduces their reproductive success. In terrestrial ecosystems, the lack of long-term longitudinal data limits our understanding of the impact of El Niño and La Niña on bird populations and communities. We analyzed changes in abundance of frugivorous (large, medium, and small) and nectarivorous birds on three tropical forest types (lowland, premontane and montane) during El Niño, La Niña and neutral years using data from 16 Christmas’ Bird Counts in Costa Rica. Abundance of large and medium size frugivores increased during La Niña events, and the abundance of nectarivores during El Niño in the lowland forest, but neither of these events affected the abundance of small frugivores. In the montane forest, abundance of all four bird groups increased during El Niño, but decreased during La Niña events. Abundance of large, and small frugivores increased in the premontane forest during La Niña events, but other bird groups were not affected by La Niña. The abundance of small frugivores also increased during El Niño. We hypothesize that changes in abundance of frugivores and nectarivores during La Niña and El Niño events is probably correlated with fluctuations in food resources as it has been reported for other terrestrial tropical ecosystems.
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