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Abstract

Multivariate analysis on 15 habitat variables and quantitative data on foraging and interactive behaviour were used to investigate habitat selection in the White-plumed Honeyeater (Lichenostomus penicillatus) and the Fuscous Honeyeater (Lichenostomus fuscus) at an area of sympatry in woodland in New England Tablelands. Thirty-nine plots from four sites were used to examine significant differences in habitat utilization during the breeding period. The White-plumed Honeyeater associated strongly with narrow belts of riverine Casuarina while the Fuscous Honeyeater was associated with Eucalyptus in the extensive eucalypt woodland. The narrow ecotone was used by both species, but the two occurred together only in an extremely narrow zone. Changes in foraging activities were observed between this overlap zone and non-overlap zone. Both niche breadth and overlap in relation to four measures of foraging were reduced in plots where species were in joint occurrence compared with where they were not, although overlap in most measures of foraging remained high. The number of encounters between the two highly aggressive and abundant species was not great. Thus, the species appear generally to avoid each other. The observed spacing pattern may result from prior experience of intense aggressive interactions. Distinct habitat features could provide easily recognized cues for the maintenance of local horizontal separation. Other factors such as slight differences in morphology, habitat preference, foraging and physiology may enhance differences in habitat selection.