Foraging patterns of breeding birds in eucalypt forest and woodland of southeastern Australia



The foraging ecology of eucalypt forest and woodland birds was studied on three 10 ha plots in southeastern Australia. Quantitative data were obtained for 41 species of which 31 were insectivorous, eight were nectar-feeders, and two were parrots that fed primarily on eucalypt seeds. Birds-of-prey, large omnivores and frugivores were uncommon. Insectivorous birds differed in foraging behaviour, the substrates on which they found prey, and foraging height. Nectar- feeders exploited a variety of carbohydrates including nectar, honeydew, lerp, manna and sap. Nectarivorous birds were separated by foraging behaviour, substrate, height and by the extent to which they used the different types of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates were also an important food resource for some insectivores. By understanding how birds exploit food resources within forest and woodland environments, the features of the environment which need to be conserved or manipulated to manage forest avifaunas can be identified. For example, in addition to the substrates such as foliage and bark, usually associated with the foraging of forest birds, carbohydrates and loose bark were identified as important resources for birds in eucalypt forests and woodlands. The broad importance of these two resources to the avifauna had not been previously appreciated, yet both may be sensitive to environmental changes associated with logging and other forest management practices which alter the composition or age-class structure of forests.