Emu Emu Society
Journal of BirdLife Australia
RESEARCH ARTICLE

The influence of ENSO and rainfall on the numbers of breeding pairs in a woodland bird community from south-eastern Australia

R. Marchant A D , S. Guppy B and M. Guppy C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Museum Victoria, GPO Box 666, Melbourne, Vic. 3001, Australia.

B 1708 Maulbrooks Road, Moruya, NSW 2537, Australia.

C Division of Evolution, Ecology and Genetics, Research School of Biology, ANU College of Medicine, Biology & Environment, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: rmarch@museum.vic.gov.au

Emu 116(3) 254-261 https://doi.org/10.1071/MU15087
Submitted: 31 August 2015  Accepted: 25 December 2015   Published: 18 February 2016

Abstract

Climate and rainfall in southern Australia are strongly influenced by the El Nino–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon. If breeding of forest birds is related to rainfall, then ENSO may influence fluctuations in breeding activity. We recorded the numbers of breeding pairs of 17 species over 17 years on a 10 ha forest plot near Moruya, NSW, in order to evaluate the influence of ENSO (as measured by the Southern Oscillation Index, SOI) and rainfall on yearly changes in breeding activity. The mean SOI for the months April–July immediately before the breeding season (August–January) was strongly correlated with the change in number of breeding pairs (D) from year to year: r = 0.82, P < 0.001. D was also strongly correlated with rainfall (August to December) during breeding: r = 0.84, P < 0.001. A positive SOI resulted in >300 mm rainfall during breeding and a positive D value; a negative SOI resulted in <300 mm of rain and a negative D value. SOI was a better predictor because it was less subject to the extreme variation shown by rainfall. This is the first time an association between breeding and SOI has been shown for forest birds in temperate Australia.

Additional keywords: change in numbers of breeding pairs, rainfall during breeding, SOI.


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