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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 35(1)

Colonisation of native tree and shrub plantings by woodland birds in an agricultural landscape

G. W. Barrett A B, D. Freudenberger A, A. Drew A, J. Stol A, A. O. Nicholls A, E. M. Cawsey A

A CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, GPO Box 284, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.
B Corresponding author. Email: geoff.barrett@csiro.au
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Tree planting has become a cornerstone strategy for natural resource management in agricultural landscapes, yet its contribution as habitat for woodland birds has not been fully investigated. A case study from the Holbrook region in southern New South Wales was used to assess woodland birds in young plantings of native trees and shrubs. Ground-foraging insectivorous woodland birds were under-represented in the plantings, partly due to a lack of native forb diversity (wildflowers) and leaf litter. Of 69 woodland bird species recorded over a three-year period, 48 species (70%) occurred in planted sites, 59 species (86%) occurred in remnant woodland, and 34 species (49%) occurred in adjacent paddock sites. The greater diversity of birds in planted sites relative to paddock sites was mostly due to understorey birds. The proportion of mist-netted birds recaptured was similar in both planted (15%) and remnant woodland (16%) sites, suggesting that individual birds were staying in planted sites. The proportion of woodland birds showing breeding activity (as measured by the presence of a brood patch) was slightly lower in planted sites (24% of all woodland species) than in remnant woodland (29%). Birds such as the superb fairy-wren, red-browed finch and southern whiteface were more likely to occur in planted sites, suggesting that plantings provide unique, transitional-stage habitat within agricultural landscapes. Restoring native forbs, as part of a broader strategy of woodland management, will help to reverse the decline of ground-foraging insectivorous woodland birds in agricultural landscapes.

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