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Keywords:

  • bird conservation;
  • foraging behaviour;
  • habitat structure;
  • pastoral management;
  • predictive model

Summary

  • 1
    Habitat structure is a major determinant of bird species diversity. One process by which habitat structure is altered is livestock grazing, the most extensive land use across most continents. While the impacts of grazing on vegetation have received much attention, the effects on avifauna are less well known.
  • 2
    Predictions of the impact of grazing on Australian woodland and riparian bird assemblages were formulated. We used available information on the vegetation strata utilized by each species for foraging and the strata most affected by grazing.
  • 3
    We compared predictions based on foraging height preferences with differences in bird density in grassy eucalypt woodland and riparian habitats subject to three levels of grazing. We found that foraging height preference was a good predictor of species’ susceptibility to grazing. Birds exhibited both monotonic and non-monotonic responses to grazing, with the majority of bird species declining with increasing grazing pressure.
  • 4
    Synthesis and applications. Existing information on foraging behaviour can be used to make predictions of the impact of any threat on birds where that threat alters habitat structure. While the approach is simple, it is a point of departure for more complex predictive models, and avoids the circularity of post hoc interpretation of impact data. This approach can be used to guide management decisions where landscapes are in a state of transition and species conservation is a priority.