Hermit Thrush is the First Observed Dispersal Agent for Pondberry (Lindera melissifolia)
We investigated dispersal opportunities for the endangered pondberry, Lindera melissifolia (Lauraceae). In 199 hours of observation at 5 fruiting colonies in the Delta National Forest, Sharkey County, Mississippi, we recorded 82 bird species in the vicinity of a colony. Of these, 12 were observed on pondberry plants, and two consumed ripe pondberry fruits. Of these, the northern cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis (Cardinalidae), was a seed predator. The other, hermit thrush, Catharus guttatus (Turdidae), was a dispersal agent for the plants. Numbers of fruits declined rapidly after hermit thrushes arrived in October and no fruits remained by January. Winter behavior of hermit thrushes constrains their dispersal of seeds to short distances. Without establishment of additional colonies, pondberry dispersal by birds to unoccupied patches of suitable forest is unlikely.