Habitat preferences of the noisy miner (Manorina melanocephala) – a propensity for prime real estate?



This study investigated habitat characteristics that have been postulated to influence the occurrence of noisy miners (Manorina melanocephala Family Meliphagidae). It builds on an earlier study that identified corners along remnant edges as important predictors of the presence of noisy miners in large blocks of remnant vegetation (>300 ha). Six habitat characteristics were recorded at 39 corner sites within the box-ironbark region of Victoria. We failed to detect any significant effect of the density of understorey vegetation on the likelihood of noisy miners occupying a site, but this might have been an artefact of prolonged drought conditions. The most powerful predictors of the presence of noisy miners at remnant corners were found to be soil type and the proportion of canopy trees at a site that were yellow gum (Eucalyptus leucoxylon), with noisy miners being associated with deeper, more fertile soils and higher proportions of yellow gums present. As yellow gum is a prolific and reliable nectar producer, the inherent productivity of a site might be more important in determining the attractiveness of a site to noisy miners than structural attributes like the presence or absence of an understorey. Noisy miners are sedentary colonial birds that occupy year-round territories, often at high densities. Sites capable of supporting such high density occupation year-round might be limited to the most productive sites within the landscape. This productivity hypothesis has potentially profound implications for other woodland avifauna, as noisy miners might be excluding other woodland birds from some of the most fertile components of the landscape; components that are already rare in the box-ironbark region due preferential clearing for agriculture at the time of settlement.