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Abstract

Birds were censused at 24 plots which had been subjected to 14 years of four experimental fire regimes (fire-exclusion, annual early burn, annual late burn and biennial burn) in Eucalyptus open forest and woodland at Munmarlary, Northern Territory. In addition, short-term responses of birds to fire at a savannah woodland site near Katherine were examined. At this site patches of the study area were burnt in April, June and August 1987, and birds were censused monthly over the period April to October 1987.

Many bird species were attracted to areas that had been recently burnt. These were mostly granivorous species, and omnivorous and carnivorous species which fed on the ground. Influxes of these species occurred because fires increased accessibility to food by clearing the ground of its previous dense grass layer.

Succession of bird species to long-unburnt areas was relatively limited, although species which fed or nested in the shrubby understorey occurred at greater densities in such areas. Frugivorous birds may become more common in areas protected from fire, thereby driving succession to monsoon vine forests from Eucalyptus forests, though, in terms of current fire regime, this process may be prohibitively slow.

The hot fires of the mid to late Dry season may be less beneficial to granivores than the cooler fires typical of the early Dry. Accordingly, recent changes in the fire regime may have contributed to the decline of some bird species.