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Article << Previous     |         Contents Vol 33(6)

Movements of frugivorous birds among fragmented rainforests in the Northern Territory, Australia

Owen F. Price

Biodiversity Conservation Unit, Department of Natural Resources, Environment and the Arts, PO Box 496, Palmerston, NT 0831, Australia. Email: owen.price@nt.gov.au
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Rainforests in the Northern Territory occur as small patches, and the frugivorous birds that depend on them are thought to move among the patches. I attached radio-transmitters to 41 birds of four species captured in several locations near Darwin. I recorded 55 interpatch flights, and estimated flight rates as between once per day and five days for figbirds and pied imperial-pigeons. The flight rates for rose-crowned fruit-doves and yellow orioles were much lower, but no reliable estimate could be made. The median flight distance was 2.5 km but one in five flights were more than 10 km. In addition, one pigeon flew 220 km in preparation for migration from Australia. Birds often undertook exploratory flights, returning to the original patch. Birds of one species captured together usually flew to different locations. When birds left a patch, it was usually to a distant patch, rather than a near neighbour. These movement patterns demonstrate that frugivorous birds use the rainforest network in a complex way. The birds depend on a network of rainforest patches and the pigeons and figbirds probably disperse large quantities of seeds among the patches. The conservation of rainforest ecosystems in northern Australia will depend on the protection of the current configuration of patches rather than a representative set of patches.

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