Wildlife Research Wildlife Research Society
Ecology, management and conservation in natural and modified habitats

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 and E. M. Cawsey A

A CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, GPO Box 284, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.

B Corresponding author. Email: geoff.barrett@csiro.au

Wildlife Research 35(1) 19-32 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WR07100
Submitted: 24 July 2007  Accepted: 8 February 2008   Published: 17 March 2008


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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