Emu Emu Society
Journal of BirdLife Australia

A study of the foraging ecology of the White-throated Treecreeper (Cormobates leucophaeus)

D. B. Lindenmayer A C , R. B. Cunningham A and A. Weekes B

A Centre for Resource & Environmental Studies, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.

B School for Resources, Environment and Society, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: davidl@cres.anu.edu.au

Emu 107(2) 135-142 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MU06040
Submitted: 31 August 2006  Accepted: 5 April 2007   Published: 15 June 2007


We quantified the foraging ecology of the White-throated Treecreeper (Cormobates leucophaeus) in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), south-eastern Australia, where it is the sole species of treecreeper present, and where a rough-barked eucalypt (Red Stringybark (Eucalyptus macrorhyncha)) and a smooth-barked eucalypt (Inland Scribbly Gum (Eucalyptus rossii)) are the dominant tree species. We examined relationships among foraging observations and variables including tree species, tree size, part of tree (substrate), time of day and month. We also quantified the kinds of foraging techniques used by the White-throated Treecreeper on different type and sizes of trees and at different times of the year. The White-throated Treecreeper more commonly foraged on Red Stringybark than on Inland Scribbly Gum. On Red Stringybark, the birds foraged more frequently on the trunk (above 4 m) and large branches than on other substrates. This trend was less marked on Inland Scribbly Gum, where dead branches were most often used for foraging. Foraging techniques that allowed rapid searching of each tree were those employed most commonly. Of these techniques, gleaning was most common (>50% of foraging time), but peering also was common. Drilling was most commonly performed on dead substrates. Foraging techniques employed by the White-throated Treecreeper changed significantly from morning to afternoon, with an increase in peering in afternoons. An increase in peering was observed for both sexes in April, but the magnitude of the increase was greater for females. White-throated Treecreepers in the ACT foraged more commonly on rough-barked eucalypts and exhibited less intraspecific resource partitioning between sexes than reported from other regions. Some of these differences may be related to contrasts in bird assemblages, particularly the absence of other bark-foraging species which may, in turn, reduce levels of intraspecific (gender-based) competition and resource partitioning. They also may be associated with differences in habitat attributes and resource availability between study areas.


Aho T. Kuitunen M. Suhonen J. Hakkari T. 1997 Behavioural responses of Eurasian Treecreepers, Certhia familiaris, to competition with ants. Animal Behaviour 54 1283 1290 DOI

Begon M., Harper J. L., and Townsend C. R. (1996). ‘Ecology: Individuals, Populations and Communities.’ (Blackwell Science: Oxford, UK).

Bell H. L. 1982 Sexual differences in the foraging behaviour of the Frill-necked Flycatcher Arses telescopthalmus in New Guinea. Australian Journal of Ecology 7 137 147 DOI

Bureau of Meteorology (2006). Climate averages – long term mean values of weather data. Available at http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/averages/tables/cw_070282.shtml [Accessed 18 May 2007].

Cale P. 1994 Temporal changes in the foraging behaviour of insectivorous birds in a sclerophyll forest in Tasmania. Emu 94 116 126

Caughley G. C., and Gunn A. (1996). ‘Conservation Biology in Theory and Practice.’ (Blackwell Science: Cambridge, MA.)

Coyne P. D. (1969). The Black Mountain Reserve, Canberra A.C.T. – description and suggestions for management. B.Sc.Honours Thesis, Department of Forestry, Australian National University, Canberra.

Crome F. J. H. 1978 Foraging ecology of an assemblage of birds in lowland rainforest in northern Queensland. Australian Journal of Ecology 3 195 212

Doerr E. D. Doerr V. A. 2005 Dispersal range analysis: quantifying individual variation in dispersal behaviour. Oecologia 142 1 10 DOI

Doerr V. A. Doerr E. D. Jenkins S. H. 2006 Habitat selection in two Australasian treecreepers: what cues should they use? Emu 106 93 103 DOI

Elton C. S. (1927). ‘Animal Ecology.’ (Methuen: London.)

Emlen J. M. 1966 The role of time and energy in food preference. American Naturalist 100 611 617 DOI

Gibbons P., and Lindenmayer D. B. (2002). ‘Tree Hollows and Wildlife Conservation in Australia.’ (CSIRO Publishing: Melbourne.)

Gustafsson L. 1988 Foraging behaviour of individual Coal Tits, Parus ater, in relation to their age, sex and morphology. Animal Behaviour 36 696 704 DOI

Higgins P. J., Peter J. M., and Steele W. K. (Eds) (2001). ‘Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Vol. 5. Tyrant-flycatchers to chats.’ (Oxford University Press: Melbourne.)

Lamm D. W. Wilson S. J. 1966 Seasonal fluctuations of birds in the Brindabella Range, Australian Capital Territory. Emu 65 183 205

Lindenmayer D. B. Cunningham R. B. Donnelly C. F. Nix H. A. Lindenmayer B. D. 2002 The distribution of birds in a novel landscape context. Ecological Monographs 72 1 18

Luck G. Charmentier A. Ezanno 2001 Seasonal and landscape differences in the foraging behaviour of the Rufous Treecreeper Climacteris rufa. Pacific Conservation Biology 7 9 20

MacArthur R. H. Pianka E. R. 1966 On optimal use of a patchy environment. American Naturalist 100 603 609

McCarthy M. A. Lindenmayer D. B. Possingham H. P. 2000 Australian treecrepers and landscape fragmentation: a test of a spatially-explicit PVA model. Ecological Applications 10 1722 1731 DOI

McCullagh P., and Nelder J. A. (1988). ‘Generalised Linear Models.’ 2nd edn. (Chapman and Hall: New York.)

Majer J. D. Recher H. F. Postle A. C. 1994 Comparison of arthropod species richness in eastern and western Australian canopies: a contribution to the species number debate. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 36 121 131

Morrison M. L., Marcot B. G., and Mannan R. W. (1992). ‘Wildlife Habitat Relationships: Concepts and Applications.’ (University of Wisconsin Press: Madison, WI.)

Moysey E. D. 1997 A study of resource partitioning within the Helmeted Honeyeater Lichenostomus melanops cassidix during the non-breeding season. Emu 97 207 219

Noske R. A. 1979 Co-existence of three species of Australian treecreepers in north-eastern New South Wales. Emu 79 120 128

Noske R. A. (1982). Comparative behaviour and ecology of some Australian bark foraging birds. Ph.D. Thesis, University of New England, Armidale, NSW.

Noske R. A. (1985). Habitat use by three bark-foragers of eucalypt forests. In ‘Birds of Eucalypt Forests and Woodlands: Ecology, Conservation, Management’. (Eds A. Keast, H. F. Recher, H. Ford and D. Saunders.) pp. 193–204. (Surrey Beatty: Sydney.)

Noske R. A. 1986 Intersexual niche segregation among three bark-foraging birds of eucalypt forests. Australian Journal of Ecology 11 255 267

Peters W. D. Grubb T. C. 1983 An experimental analysis of sex-specific foraging in the Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens. Ecology 64 1437 1443 DOI

Pook E. W. Moore C. W. E. 1966 The influence of aspect on the composition and structure of dry sclerophyll forest on Black Mountain, Canberra, ACT. Australian Journal of Ecology 5 223 242

Recher H. F. 1989 Foraging segregation of Australian warblers (Acanthizidae) in open forest near Sydney, New South Wales. Emu 89 204 215

Recher H. F. Davis W. E. 1997 Foraging ecology of a mulga bird community. Wildlife Research 24 27 43

Recher H. F. Holmes R. T. 2000 The foraging ecology of birds of eucalypt forest and woodland. I. Differences between males and females. Emu 100 205 215 DOI

Recher H. F. Holmes R. T. Schulz M. Shields J. Kavanagh R. 1985 Foraging patterns of breeding birds in eucalypt forest and woodland of southeastern Australia. Australian Journal of Ecology 10 399 419 DOI

Recher H. F. Majer J. D. Ganesh S. 1996 Seasonality of canopy invertebrate communities in eucalypt forests of eastern and western Australia. Australian Journal of Ecology 21 64 80 DOI

Schoener T. W. (1987). brief history of optimal foraging ecology. In ‘Foraging Behavior’. (Eds A. C. Kamil, J. R. Krebs and H. R. Pulliam.) pp. 34–51. (Plenum Press: New York.)

Stephens D. W., and Krebs J. R. (1986). ‘Foraging Theory.’ (Princeton University Press: Princeton, NJ.)

Tubelis D. P. Lindenmayer D. B. Saunders D. A. Cowling A. Nix H. A. 2004 Landscape supplementation provided by an exotic matrix: implications for bird conservation and forest management in a softwood plantation system in south-eastern Australia Oikos 107 634 644 DOI

Wiens J. A. (1989). ‘The Ecology of Bird Communities. Vol. 1: Foundations and Patterns.’(Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK.)

Williams J. (1976). ‘Nature Guide. Black Mountain Reserve. Ainslie-Majura Reserve.’ (Department of Capital Territory, Australian Government Publishing Service: Canberra.)

Woinarski J. M. Cullen J. C. 1984 Distribution of invertebrates on foliage in forests in south-eastern Australia. Australian Journal of Ecology 9 207 232 DOI

Export Citation