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Impact of flowering on bird community dynamics in some central Victorian eucalypt forests



Many species of Eucalyptus in Australia provide copious amounts of nectar during their reproductive seasons. The nectar is used by many animal species but especially by birds, insects and some bats, which act as pollinators. One of the major features of eucalypt flowering in southern Australia is the patchy, asynchronous flowering of different species, which appears to drive mass nomadism of nectarivorous birds among regions and among habitats. Here we explore whether flowering asynchrony or climate is primarily responsible for the influxes and effluxes of vast numbers of nectarivorous birds in central Victoria, Australia. By using a structured sampling program, we show that winter flowering by red ironbark Eucalyptus tricarpa is the most likely agent controlling avian-nectarivore dynamics rather than climatic differences among regions. Densities and species richness of nectarivores, and numbers of nectarivory events, are all closely related to measures of flowering intensity. However, non- nectarivores, such as insectivores and granivores, show no relationships with either habitat or region. We discuss how dependence on a patchily distributed but highly rewarding resource such as nectar influences population densities and community structure in birds.