Emu Emu Society
Journal of BirdLife Australia

Beyond the ‘woody remnant’ paradigm in conservation of woodland birds: habitat requirements of the Hooded Robin (Melanodryas cucullata cucullata)

Steven D. Priday

PO Box 250, Geebung, Qld 4034, Australia. Email: steve.priday@bigpond.com

Emu 110(2) 118-124 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MU09051
Submitted: 12 June 2009  Accepted: 21 December 2009   Published: 18 May 2010


Declines in populations of woodland birds in southern Australia have generally been attributed to historical and ongoing reductions in the area of tree cover and increasing fragmentation of timbered remnants. The extent of native grassy ground cover has received much less attention in studies of fragmentation despite the fact that a large proportion of declining woodland bird species forage predominantly within this stratum. In this study, records of the south-eastern subspecies of the Hooded Robin (Melanodryas cucullata cucullata), a subspecies formally recognised as threatened in New South Wales, were examined in relation to vegetation structure and configuration in the NSW South Western Slopes Bioregion. Logistic regression models were constructed using a presence–absence dataset derived from Atlas of NSW Wildlife records and recent bird surveys and a small number of variables representing broad categories of native vegetation cover, including grassy ground cover. The models indicate a positive association between the presence of the Hooded Robin and the edges of open vegetation dominated by ungrazed or lightly grazed grassy ground cover in which species of native perennial tussock-grass predominate, adjoining timbered native vegetation cover, on moderately deep to deep soils. The study highlights the need to account for the range of vegetation types and conditions in variegated landscapes when investigating the habitat requirements of declining woodland birds, rather than relying on a simple binary ‘woody/non-woody’ classification.

Additional keywords: edge species, remote sensing, variegated landscape.


ACT Government (1999). Hooded Robin (Melanodryas cucullata): a vulnerable species. Action Plan No. 15. Environment ACT, Canberra.

Antos M. J. Bennett A. F. 2005 How important are different types of temperate woodlands for ground-foraging birds? Wildlife Research 32 557 572 doi:10.1071/WR04118

Austin M. 2007 Species distribution models and ecological theory: a critical assessment and some possible new approaches. Ecological Modelling 200 1 19 doi:10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2006.07.005

Barrett G. W. , Silcocks A. , Barry S. , Cunningham R. , and Poulter R. (2003). ‘The New Atlas of Australian Birds.’ (Birds Australia: Melbourne.)

Bell H. L. 1984 A note on communal breeding and dispersal of young of the Hooded Robin Melanodryas cucullata. Emu 84 243 244

Benson J. S. 2008 New South Wales Vegetation Classification and Assessment: Part 2 Plant communities of the NSW South Western Slopes Bioregion and update of NSW Western Plains plant communities, Version 2 of the NSWVCA database. Cunninghamia 10 599 673

Blakers M. , Davies S. J. J. F. , and Reilly P. N. (1984). ‘The Atlas of Australian Birds.’ (Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union: Melbourne.)

Briggs S. V. Seddon J. A. Doyle S. J. 2007 Structures of bird communities in woodland remnants in central New South Wales, Australia. Australian Journal of Zoology 55 29 40

Bromham L. Cardillo M. Bennett A. F. Elgar M. A. 2002 Effects of stock grazing on the ground invertebrate fauna of woodland remnants. Australian Journal of Ecology 24 199 207

Burnham K. P. , and Anderson D. R. (2002). ‘Model Selection and Multi-model Inference: A Practical Information-theoretic Approach.’ (Springer: New York.)

Fischer J. Lindenmayer D. B. 2006 Beyond fragmentation: the continuum model for fauna research and conservation in human-modified landscapes. Oikos 112 473 480

Fitri L. L. Ford H. A. 1997 Status, habitat preferences and social organisation of the Hooded Robin Melanodryas cucullata in the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales. Australian Bird Watcher 17 142 155

Fitri L. L. Ford H. A. 2003 Breeding biology of Hooded Robins Melanodryas cucullata in New England, New South Wales. Corella 27 68 74

Ford H. A. Barrett G. W. Saunders D. A. Recher H. F. 2001 Why have birds in the woodlands of Southern Australia declined? Biological Conservation 97 71 88

Guisan A. Lehmann A. Ferrier S. Austin M. Overton J. M. C. C. Aspinall R. Hastie T. 2006 Making better biogeographical predictions of species’ distributions. Journal of Applied Ecology 43 386 392 doi:10.1111/j.1365-2664.2006.01164.x

Higgins P. J. , and Peter J. M. (Eds) (2002). ‘Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Vol. 6: Pardalotes to Shrike-thrushes.’ (Oxford University Press: Melbourne.)

Keith D. (2004). ‘Oceans Shore to Desert Dunes. The Native Vegetation of New South Wales and the ACT.’ (NSW Department of Environment and Conservation: Sydney.)

King D. P. (1998). Soil landscapes of the Forbes 1 : 250,000 Sheet. Department of Land and Water Conservation, Sydney.

King K. L. Hutchison K. J. 1983 The effects of sheep grazing on invertebrate numbers and biomass in unfertilized natural pastures of the New England Tablelands (NSW). Australian Journal of Ecology 8 245 255

Kovac M. , Murphy B. W. and Lawrie J. W. (1990). Soil landscapes of the Bathurst 1:250,000 Sheet. Department of Land and Water Conservation, Sydney.

Major R. E. Christie F. J. Gowing G. 2001 Influence of remnant and landscape attributes on Australian woodland bird communities. Biological Conservation 102 47 66

Maron M. Lill A. 2006 Intraspecific variation in detection of bird-habitat relationships: declining birds in southern Australian woodlands. Pacific Conservation Biology 12 301 312

McIntyre S. Barrett G. W. 1992 Habitat variegation, an alternative to fragmentation. Conservation Biology 6 146 147

McIntyre S. Hobbs R. 1999 A framework for conceptualizing human effects on landscapes and its relevance to management and research models. Conservation Biology 13 1282 1292 doi:10.1046/j.1523-1739.1999.97509.x

McIntyre S. Tongway D. 2005 Grassland structure in native pastures: links to soil surface condition. Ecological Management & Restoration 6 43 50 doi:10.1111/j.1442-8903.2005.00218.x

Prober S. M. Thiele K. R. 1995 Conservation of the grassy white box woodlands: relative contributions of size and disturbance to floristic composition and diversity of remnants. Australian Journal of Botany 43 349 366 doi:10.1071/BT9950349

R Development Core Team (2006). ‘R: A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing.’ (R Foundation for Statistical Computing: Vienna, Austria.)

Recher H. 1999 The state of Australia’s avifauna: a personal opinion and prediction for the new millenium. Australian Zoologist 31 11 27

Robinson D. , and Traill B. J. (1996). Conserving woodland birds in the wheat and sheep belts of southern Australia. RAOU Conservation Statement No. 10. RAOU, Melbourne. [Supplement to Wingspan 6(2), June 1996]

Schodde R. , and Mason I. J. (1999). ‘The Directory of Australian Birds.’ (CSIRO: Canberra.)

Taws N. (2001). ‘Bringing Birds Back: A Glovebox Guide for Bird Identification and Habitat Restoration in ACT and SE NSW.’ (Greening Australia: Canberra.)

Taylor M. (1992). ‘Birds of the Australian Capital Territory – An Atlas.’ (Canberra Ornithologists Group and National Capital Authority: Canberra.)

Watson J. Freudenberger D. Paull D. 2001 An assessment of the focal-species approach for conserving birds in variegated landscapes in southeastern Australia. Conservation Biology 15 1364 1373

Wilson C. E. (2003). Remnant woodland condition and its influence on woodland bird species richness and community composition. B.Sc.(Hons) Thesis, Australian National University, Canberra.

Wintle B. A. Elith J. Potts J. M. 2005 Fauna habitat modelling and mapping: a review and case study in the Lower Hunter Central Coast region of NSW. Austral Ecology 30 719 738 doi:10.1111/j.1442-9993.2005.01514.x

Export Citation