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Wildlife of the Box-Ironbark Country

Wildlife of the Box-Ironbark Country

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Wildlife of the Box-Ironbark Country

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666 página
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Publicado:
May 2, 2005
ISBN:
9780643099838
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Libro

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The forests and woodlands of Victoria’s Box-Ironbark Region are one of the most important areas of animal diversity and significance in southern Australia. They provide critical habitat for a diverse array of woodland-dependant animals, including many threatened species such as the Squirrel Glider, Brush-tailed Phascogale, Regent Honeyeater, Swift Parrot, Pink-tailed Worm-lizard and the Woodland Blind Snake.

Wildlife of the Box-Ironbark Country gives a comprehensive overview of the ecology of the box-ironbark habitats and their wildlife. It covers all of the mammals, birds, reptiles and frogs that occur in the region, with a brief description of their distribution, status and ecology, together with a distribution map and superb colour photograph for each species. The book includes a ‘Where to Watch’ section, featuring a selection of national parks, state parks and nature conservation reserves as places where people can experience the ecosystem and its wildlife for themselves.

Wildlife of the Box-Ironbark Country is intended for land-managers, conservation and wildlife workers, land-holders, teachers, students, naturalists and all those interested in some way in learning about and appreciating the wildlife of this fascinating and endangered ecosystem.

Publicado:
May 2, 2005
ISBN:
9780643099838
Formato:
Libro

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Wildlife of the Box-Ironbark Country - Chris C. Tzaros

WILDLIFE

of the

BOX-IRONBARK

Country

WILDLIFE

of the

BOX-IRONBARK

Country

CHRIS TZAROS

Photographs by

Tadao Shimba

Chris Tzaros and Peter Robertson

Additional photography

Lindy Lumsden, Peter Merritt, Rob Drummond and Andrew Bennett

© Chris Tzaros 2005

All rights reserved. Except under the conditions described in the Australian Copyright Act 1968 and subsequent amendments, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, duplicating or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner. Contact CSIRO PUBLISHING for all permission requests.

National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry

Tzaros, Chris.

Wildlife of the box-ironbark country.

Includes index.

ISBN 0 643 06967 4 (paperback). ISBN 0 643 09221 8 (netLibrary eBook).

1. Forest animals – Victoria. 2. Eucalyptus – Victoria. 3.

National parks and reserves – Australia - Victoria. I.

Shimba, Tadao. II. Robertson, Peter. III. Title.

591.9945

Available from

CSIRO PUBLISHING

150 Oxford Street (PO Box 1139)

Collingwood VIC 3066

Australia

Cover photographs

Front: Peron’s Tree Frog (Chris Tzaros), Musk Lorikeet (Tadao Shimba),

Squirrel Glider (Peter Robertson), Ironbark woodland (Chris Tzaros).

Back: Common Scaly-foot (Peter Robertson), Mistletoebird (Tadao Shimba),

Brush-tailed Phascogale (Todd Soderquist), Spotted Pardalote (Tadao Shimba),

Short-beaked Echidna (Chris Tzaros).

Spine: Regent Honeyeater (Chris Tzaros).

Cover and text design by James Kelly

Typeset by James Kelly

Printed in Australia by Impact Printing

Contents

Preface

Acknowledgments

Introduction

1 Wildlife of the box-ironbark: an overview

2 Wildlife and habitat conservation

3 Box-ironbark habitats

4 Species accounts:

Mammals

Birds

Reptiles

Amphibians

5 Where to watch wildlife

6 Hints for watching wildlife

Checklist of box-ironbark wildlife

Description of conservation status

Plant species referred to

Glossary

Selected reading

Useful contacts

Photo credits

Audio CD: Box-ironbark nature soundscape

Index to species

Regent Honeyeater

Preface

Victoria’s box-ironbark forests and woodlands support a rich and diverse array of wildlife, quite different from that of wetter vegetation communities to the south and drier environments to the north. Within this unique ecosystem, eucalypt blossom provides food for many nectar-feeding birds such as honeyeaters and lorikeets, tree-hollows are critical for nocturnal arboreal mammals and hollow-nesting birds, and fallen timber and rocky outcrops provide habitat for a range of reptiles, amphibians and ground-dwelling insectivorous birds. The species that depend on these features of the habitat are a distinctive part of box-ironbark forests and woodlands.

Sadly, these forests and woodlands have been reduced to around 15 per cent of their coverage before European settlement. Large tracts were extensively removed during the gold rushes of the 19th century and vegetation on the most fertile lowland areas was cleared for agriculture during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Over the many years since then, areas of remnant and regrowth forest and woodland have been greatly modified by various land uses and processes. Not surprisingly, this has had a devastating effect on the fauna, and many species such as the Regent Honeyeater, Squirrel Glider, Swift Parrot and Woodland Blind Snake are now threatened with extinction. Dozens more species are experiencing drastic decline. Only in the past decade has the region seen its first examples of national parks and dedicated conservation reserves.

This book aims to provide a means for people to better identify and understand the vertebrate wildlife of the region, with information on all animal groups – mammals, birds, reptiles and frogs – in one compact volume. I trust it will also promote a greater awareness and appreciation of the wildlife in this unique area of Victoria, and most importantly, stimulate further interest and action needed to conserve this precious and highly threatened ecosystem.

Chapters 1 to 3 give a brief overview of the box-ironbark wildlife, its conservation status and threats, and the vegetation with respect to its use as habitat by wildlife. The species accounts in Chapter 4 describe the distribution, status and ecology of all of the animal species to be found in the area. Information included in the species accounts has been derived not only from a combination of my own field experience in the box-ironbark ecosystem, but also from personal communications with a number of other naturalists and experts, and from the published books, reports and papers listed at the end of this book. Chapter 5 includes some useful hints for watching wildlife and features some of the new national parks, state parks and nature conservation reserves where people can experience the ecosystem and its wildlife for themselves. It gives advice on when to visit, how to get there and what they may expect to see.

At the end of the book there is a checklist of the fauna, a glossary, a list of potentially useful contacts, a list of plant names referred to in the book, and a list of selected further reading. Also included is a nature soundscape recording on compact disc, which will help people identify many species of birds and frogs by call. Detailed field notes to accompany the recording are on pages 243–249.

I hope that this book will be used by many people, not only workers or students in the field of land and wildlife management, community extension or regional planning, but also landholders, naturalists, tourists, and anyone who may simply wish to learn more about the wildlife of Victoria’s wonderful box-ironbark country.

Chris Tzaros

Acknowledgments

I owe a great debt of gratitude to Mick Fendley for his keen support of this book and untiring efforts towards acquiring funding to enable its publication. Financial assistance was provided by Parks Victoria (through Alex Holt and Roy Speechley), the Norman Wettenhall Foundation (through Geoff Park and Scott Anderson), the Department of Sustainability and Environment (through Rob Price) and in-kind contribution from Birds Australia (through Mike Weston). To all the above, I am deeply appreciative of their support.

This book was also made possible through the generous help of many dedicated friends and colleagues who contributed in so many ways. I especially thank Tadao Shimba and Peter Robertson for extensive use of their superb wildlife photographs which stunningly illustrate this book. Other photographic contributors to who I am also thankful are Lindy Lumsden, Rob Drummond, Andrew Bennett, Kelvin Jakes, Neil Fifer, Jiri Lochman, Geoff Brown, Todd Soderquist and Michael Seyfort.

I am also particularly grateful to those who reviewed and edited earlier drafts: Andrew Bennett, Lindy Lumsden, Peter Robertson, Ian Davidson, Eileen Collins, Garry Cheers, Mick Fendley, Mark Antos, John Peter and Peter Johnson. Information and figures for various sections of the text were provided by Ray Thomas, Natalie Holland, James Fitzsimons, Simon Kennedy, Geoff Brown, Roger Standen, Felicity Nicholls, Peter Morison, Barry Traill, Peter Menkhorst and Tom Smith.

The species distribution maps were generated from the Atlas of Victorian Wildlife by Andrew Corrick, Petina Pert and Barb Baxter (Department of Sustainability and Environment) who showed considerable patience and tolerance throughout the mapping process. Additional assistance with species maps was provided by Andrew Silcocks (Atlas of Australian Birds, Birds Australia). I also thank all of the observant and diligent people who have submitted their wildlife records to the atlas projects – the creation of distribution maps would otherwise be impossible. Maps of the region and of parks and reserves were expertly created by Desiree Leslie-Hughes under the guidance of Simon Ransome (Victorian Environment Assessment Council).

Staff from CSIRO Publishing – Nick Alexander, Briana Elwood, James Kelly and Camilla Myers – have all been tremendously helpful and a pleasure to work with. Nick particularly has been exceptionally accommodating in listening to my ideas, providing a plethora of useful advice and making constructive comments on the manuscript. In compiling the audio recording, it has been a privilege working with Andrew Skeoch of Listening Earth. Andrew is a master of nature sound recording and I thank him for allowing me to use his extensive material and for producing the CD.

I acknowledge the contribution of the Bendigo Field Naturalists Club and those many individuals who have in some way shaped my interest, knowledge and appreciation of box-ironbark wildlife over many years, but I particularly recognise John Robinson, Ian Davidson, Rob Price and Andrew Bennett as mentors. I have much to thank them for.

Finally, I thank my dear wife, Julie Hennessy, for her unfailing support, endless encouragement and meticulous organisational assistance during preparation of this book, and also for sharing an interest in my beloved box-ironbark forests by accompanying me on the many field trips and ‘holidays’ north of the divide.

Introduction

The box-ironbark forests and woodlands of Victoria occur naturally in the area north of the Great Dividing Range and south of the Northern Plains, from Stawell in the west to Chiltern in the east. The map below shows the extent and distribution of the vegetation together with details of land tenure. Outlying areas of box-ironbark vegetation in southern Victoria are not included in this book. Also excluded are other vegetation types, such as River Red Gum woodlands along the major rivers, cleared agricultural pastures, native grasslands, and wetlands and other aquatic habitats that, although occurring in the general region, do not strictly form part of the box-ironbark ecosystem.

While the term ‘box-ironbark’ refers to tree species, particularly Grey Box, Red Ironbark and Mugga Ironbark, these species are not necessarily found at all sites in the ecosystem. Plant communities that are dominated by Yellow Gum and Red Stringybark, and even mallee eucalypts, such as Blue Mallee, Green Mallee and Bull Mallee, are all considered part of the box-ironbark ecosystem. These communities are interspersed among the more typical box-ironbark vegetation types and, because they contain an array of understorey plants characteristic of the box-ironbark country, they qualify as box-ironbark vegetation.

Only animal species that occur within the geographic area shown in the map, and that occupy box-ironbark vegetation, have been selected for inclusion in this book, based on the following criteria:

Mammals: species for which there are 10 or more accepted records in the Atlas of Victorian Wildlife.

Birds: species for which there are 10 or more accepted records in the Atlas of Victorian Wildlife, and/or those which are known to breed within the defined habitat and area.

Reptiles and amphibians: species which have an accepted record in the Atlas of Victorian Wildlife.

Those animals that occur within the defined region but not at sites containing box-ironbark vegetation have been excluded from this book, as are all introduced species. The few partially aquatic species that are included do occasionally use box-ironbark habitats. There is a complete checklist of all native species of vertebrate fauna recorded within Victoria’s box-ironbark ecosystem on pages 225–230.

Species accounts

The individual species accounts in Chapter 4 summarise current knowledge about their distribution, status and ecology. For each species there are notes on diet, vocalisations, social organisation, general behaviour and breeding. There are also notes on habitat and microhabitat use, as well as information on specific locations where a species may be encountered on a regular basis. Under ‘range and status’ there are notes on extent of occurrence, seasonality and abundance. The account includes the name of any similar species that may be similar in appearance, behaviour, or in call. Accompanying the notes for each species is a photograph, and a distribution map from the Atlas of Victorian Wildlife.

Unless specified, information in these species accounts relates specifically to the Victorian box-ironbark ecosystem, referred to throughout the species accounts simply as ‘box-ironbark’.

The following abbreviations for public land tenure have been used throughout the species accounts:

Crested Shrike-tit

Interpreting the species maps

The maps show the distribution of species both within Victoria’s box-ironbark ecosystem and their broader distribution within Victoria. Records are from the Atlas of Victorian Wildlife database, established and maintained by the Department of Sustainability and Environment.

The box-ironbark maps show cells of 5' latitude by 5' longitude (approximately 7 km by 9 km) in which there are records of a species in the Atlas of Victorian Wildlife. This information is superimposed over the distribution of public land (shaded beige). Three major towns are labelled to provide additional aid to location. This combination of public land layer and place name, and the enlarged scale of the map, allows the reader to interpret the distribution of a species with reasonable accuracy. It may also be useful for those wishing to determine which species occur in a particular park, nature reserve or forest block.

The Victoria maps also show cells of 5' latitude by 5' longitude in which there are records of a species in the Atlas of Victorian Wildlife. Records in the database with imprecise locality information are placed in a 10' cell and represented by a larger symbol on the maps. This information is presented statewide, with the box-ironbark ecosystem (i.e. the area covered in the accompanying box-ironbark map) shaded grey. The reader may then examine the distribution of a given species outside of the Box-Ironbark region. This is useful to show the extent to which a species shows a preference, or otherwise, for box-ironbark habitats in relation to elsewhere in the state.

On both maps, the most recent species records from a grid cell are coloured for the time periods ‘before 1970’ (red) and ‘since 1970 inclusive’ (green). While it is recognised that fauna survey effort has differed between these periods, for many species it does provide an indication of the extent and timing of change to their distribution.

The maps in this book should not be regarded as complete in that absence of a record does not necessarily mean absence of the species – it may imply that there are no records in the Atlas of Victorian Wildlife. This may especially be the case for species that are not readily encountered, such as rare, restricted or cryptic species. Generally though, the maps are comprehensive and indicate the current extent of species distributions using the most recent data available.

Taxonomy and nomenclature

In this book, common and scientific names of species follow those used in Menkhorst (1995) for mammals, Christidis and Boles (1994) for birds, and the Victorian Flora Species Index (2001) for plants. For reptiles, most scientific names follow those of Wilson and Swan (2003), except for Acritoscincus duperreyi which has remained Bassiana duperreyi – still most commonly applied to this species. Common names for reptiles used in this book differ slightly from Wilson and Swan (2003) in that those used in this book are the most popular names by which the species is known in Victoria and in the Atlas of Victorian Wildlife. For amphibians, scientific names follow Robinson (1998), and common names are those by which the species is most commonly known in Victoria and in the Atlas of Victorian Wildlife.

Opposite: The diverse vegetation communities that make up Victoria’s box-ironbark ecosystem are scattered across the gently undulating rises and low hills inland of the Great Dividing Range in south-eastern Australia.

1

Wildlife of the box-ironbark:

an overview

One of the main reasons for the high level of diversity and distinctiveness of the wildlife of box-ironbark forests and woodlands is the position of the ecosystem in the landscape – interposed as it is between semi-arid and arid inland environments to the north and west, and moister environments to the east and south. In addition, climate, landform, geology and soil type all influence the vegetation communities that make up this distinctive ecosystem, providing a wide variety of habitat types for wildlife, ranging from characteristic ironbark and box eucalypt woodlands to low mallee-dominated shrublands.

A total of 287 species of native wildlife have been recorded in the box-ironbark ecosystem in Victoria. In each animal group, but most notably among the birds, there is an array of temperate woodland-dependant species, as well as species representative of the wet forests of the Great Dividing Range, and the drier environments of the Murray River floodplain and semi-arid mallee region. Species from these adjacent regions generally occur at the edge of their range in the box-ironbark ecosystem. In addition, there are also widespread species that occupy many habitats throughout Victoria, further adding to the diversity of wildlife in the box-ironbark forests and woodlands.

Widespread clearing and modification of box-ironbark habitats since European settlement has resulted in marked changes to the composition of wildlife communities and the conservation status of many species. Three particularly sensitive groups of wildlife are:

species that depend on tree-hollows for shelter or breeding,

mobile species that track and use resources, such as flowering, in different localities, and

ground-dwelling species that use forest and woodland habitats.

While we may never fully appreciate just how many species have been lost, it is clear from the limited historical records that some species have been driven to extinction and no longer occur in the ecosystem. Of great concern is the continuing decline of many other species across parts or all of the Box-Ironbark region. The remaining areas of box-ironbark vegetation now support a number of species that are either threatened, rare, or not found elsewhere in the state. Consequently, these habitats have a high conservation value at both a state and national scale.

Mammals

Mammal populations have been worst affected since the arrival of Europeans. The introduction of competitive herbivores (e.g. rabbits, domestic stock) and exotic predators (cats and foxes), and persecution by early European settlers, have all contributed to the loss of mammal species during the past 150 years.

The White-footed Rabbit-rat, once believed to be reasonably common throughout Victorian woodlands, including box-ironbark areas, declined to extinction within just three decades of European colonisation. The Rufous Bettong also once occurred throughout much of the box-ironbark ecosystem, but disappeared from Victoria during the early 1900s. Among the last records were those collected as specimens, now in the Museum of Victoria, from Violet Town in 1874 and from near Bendigo around 1900. Gone too are the Eastern Quoll and the Dingo, both which were unable to withstand the earliest changes to the landscape and died out across the Box-Ironbark region within decades of European settlement.

Despite these major impacts and loss of species, 38 species of native mammals remain in Victoria’s box-ironbark ecosystem. Marsupials comprise almost one-half of the native mammals (18 species), and include many ground-dwelling species such as kangaroos, wallabies and dunnarts, as well as arboreal species such as possums and gliders. Some ground-dwellers, such as the Black Wallaby and Eastern Grey Kangaroo, have increased in number and expanded their range throughout the region and are among the most frequently observed mammals. Others, such as the Common Dunnart, have been adversely affected and are rarely seen.

Arboreal species are particularly well-represented. There are nine: ranging from the tiny, rarely seen Feathertail Glider, to the robust and familiar Common Brushtail Possum. Most arboreal species depend on tree-hollows and now are largely restricted to localities that contain mature trees and suitable hollows (see Chapter 2).

The Rufous Bettong once occurred throughout much of the box-ironbark country. This specimen was collected near Bendigo around 1900.

The largest group of placental mammals are the insectivorous bats, with 13 species present in the region. Most of these bats are common and widespread, though they are difficult to observe due to their nocturnal activity, small size and habit of sheltering during the day in roost sites in tree hollows and under bark. Insectivorous bats are voracious predators of small aerial invertebrates. They are highly mobile and can use separate areas for roosting and foraging – some individuals may travel distances of 10 kilometres or more to forage each night. Two large fruit-eating bats have also been recorded in the Box-Ironbark region as irregular vagrants.

The Short-beaked Echidna and the Platypus, both monotremes, also occur in the box-ironbark ecosystem. The Echidna is widespread and moderately common, but the Platypus is extremely rare and restricted to permanent watercourses that run through box-ironbark forests and woodlands. These stream habitats are shared with the semi-aquatic Water Rat, which can also use adjacent terrestrial habitats.

The White-footed Rabbit-rat, illustrated here by John Gould, declined to extinction within just three decades of European colonisation. Source: La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria.

The Koala occurs throughout the box-ironbark country, but is more common in moister forests to the south.

The Inland Broad-nosed Bat is found in drier inland habitats and occurs on the southern edge of its range in the box-ironbark country.

Natural distribution patterns

The distribution patterns displayed by mammals of the box-ironbark ecosystem can be divided into four main groups. First, there are species typically associated with wet forests of the Great Dividing Range of south-eastern Australia, such as the Common Wombat, Long-nosed Bandicoot and Eastern Pygmy-possum. These are found at a small number of locations in the far south and east of the ecosystem. More common species representative of moister forests include the Koala, Common Ringtail Possum and Feathertail Glider. Second, there are a group of mammals characteristic of dry inland environments (such as mallee habitats) including species such as the Western Grey Kangaroo and Inland Broad-nosed Bat. Third, there is a group of mammals that are typically associated with temperate woodlands – the habitats characteristic of the box-ironbark ecosystem. Species such as the Brush-tailed Phascogale, Yellow-footed Antechinus and Squirrel Glider have a Victorian distribution that is centred on box-ironbark habitats and they are commonly regarded as ‘woodland specialists’. The final group of mammal species are those, such as Common Brushtail Possum, Sugar Glider, Lesser Long-eared Bat and Short-beaked Echidna, that are widespread throughout many habitat types in Victoria, including the box-ironbark ecosystem.

Birds

Box-ironbark forests and woodlands are renowned for their rich and varied bird life. Some 186 species of native birds (excluding waterbirds) are known from Victoria’s box-ironbark ecosystem. Most of these (86 per cent) regularly breed in box-ironbark habitats or migrate to the region each year. Other species, including rare vagrants such as the Grey Falcon, Crescent Honeyeater and Cicadabird, occur only very occasionally.

The Regent Honeyeater, once a common bird seen in large flocks in the box-ironbark country, is now critically endangered.

A number of bird species have suffered a marked decline in population size and experienced severe range contraction in the box-ironbark ecosystem since European settlement. The Regent Honeyeater, reported to be widespread and common until the 1970s, is now critically endangered on a national scale. Areas that once supported large breeding flocks of this colourful honeyeater now support only small numbers of birds infrequently.

Numerous other woodland species are experiencing range contractions and population declines. The Crested Bellbird, for example, was commonly recorded in the forests surrounding Chiltern until the 1970s, but the population dwindled rapidly and the species was last recorded there in 1991. The Grey-crowned Babbler has declined markedly in the box-ironbark woodlands and elsewhere in Victoria over the past few decades, and is now threatened and restricted to isolated localities in central and northern Victoria. The Hooded Robin, Speckled Warbler and Diamond Firetail remain relatively widespread throughout the box-ironbark country but their numbers continue to decline and populations have disappeared from various districts since around the 1970s.

The decline of the Crested Bellbird

‘A bird confined to the country nearer Chiltern is the Oreoica cristata, its beautiful bell-like notes being always heard among the ironbarks.’

A.G. Campbell (1902)

‘Crested Bellbirds are now almost certainly extinct at Chiltern. As this was the last population in north-east Victoria, they are now likely to be extinct in this entire region.’

B.J. Traill (1995)

The range of the Grey-crowned Babbler has declined significantly over the past 30 years.

Four important groups of birds can be recognised, based on their ecological requirements, namely their usage of foraging resources and micro-habitats used for roosting and nesting.

Nectar-feeding birds are the most conspicuous. Around 20 per cent of the box-ironbark birds feed on nectar to some extent. They are mostly colourful species that are highly vocal, active and aggressive. Wattlebirds (2 species), friarbirds (2 species), honeyeaters (24 species), lorikeets (4 species) and the Swift Parrot are strongly influenced by the distribution and seasonal flowering patterns of the characteristic nectar-producing eucalypts such as Red Ironbark, Mugga Ironbark, Grey Box, White Box, Yellow Box and Yellow Gum. Eucalypt flowers provide critical food resources for these birds, both directly as carbohydrate-rich nectar and indirectly through attracting invertebrates which in turn provide a protein-rich food. Insects make up a large part of the diet of most nectar-feeding birds.

Ground-foraging and ground-nesting birds are also well represented and are some of the ecosystem’s most emblematic species. Birds such as the Painted Button-quail, Bush Stone-curlew, Common Bronzewing, Turquoise Parrot, Chestnut-rumped Heathwren, Speckled Warbler, Buff-rumped Thornbill, Southern Whiteface, Jacky Winter, Hooded Robin, Grey-crowned and White-browed Babblers, Spotted Quail-thrush, Crested Bellbird and Diamond Firetail, are all dependant on features of the ground-layer, such as sparse grass cover, a patchy understorey and woody and leafy debris, for various parts of their life-cycle.

Flowering eucalypts, such as this Grey Box, are an important food source for a large number of birds and mammals.

A diverse and complex ground-layer provides habitat for a wide range of fauna in the form of sheltering, basking, nesting and foraging sites.

Tree-hollows are an important yet scarce feature of box-ironbark forests and woodlands.

Lerp, the sugary coverings of psyllid insects, is a valuable food source for many birds and mammals.

Hollow-dependant species make up around 15 per cent of all bird species that breed in the ecosystem. These range from small species that require tiny crevices and knot-holes, such as the Striated Pardalote and Australian Owlet-nightjar, to those that need large hollows in mature trees, including the Powerful Owl, Barking Owl and Laughing Kookaburra. Mature and senescing hollow-bearing trees have a very important role in providing habitat in these forests and woodlands.

The fourth group are insectivorous foliage-gleaners, such as whistlers (3 species), cuckoo-shrikes (2 species), cuckoos (5 species), gerygones (2 species), pardalotes (2 species), thornbills (7 species) and the Weebill. These species are specially adapted to forage on eucalypt and acacia foliage in search of small invertebrates. For much of the year many of these birds, together with a variety of other small insectivorous species, assemble in mixed-species foraging flocks especially during autumn and winter. These flocks are typically led by gregarious species such as Buff-rumped and Striated Thornbills, with various followers including the Speckled Warbler, Scarlet Robin, Grey Fantail, White-throated Treecreeper and Spotted Pardalote.

The Fuscous Honeyeater is a woodland-dependant species characteristic of box-ironbark forests and woodlands.

Although fairly widespread, numbers of the Diamond Firetail continue to decline throughout their preferred woodland habitats.

Natural distribution patterns

Based upon their natural patterns of distribution, biogeographic origin and habitat preferences, birds of the box-ironbark – like the mammals – may be divided into four main groups.

The characteristic ‘woodland’ species are largely confined to, or distinctly centred on, box-ironbark forests and woodlands. Species such as the Fuscous Honeyeater, Black-chinned Honeyeater, Painted Honeyeater, Regent Honeyeater, Turquoise Parrot, Swift Parrot, Little Lorikeet, Bush Stone-curlew, Speckled Warbler, Diamond Firetail and White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike occur far more extensively in the box-ironbark ecosystem than elsewhere in Victoria.

Species typical of moist forested environments to the south and south-east also make up a large component of the box-ironbark bird life. These include species such as the Crimson Rosella, Scarlet Robin, Red-browed Finch, White-browed Scrubwren, Striated Thornbill and Eastern Spinebill that are near the northern edge of their geographic range.

Birds usually associated with semi-arid mallee environments, such as the Malleefowl, Shy Heathwren, Yellow-plumed Honeyeater, Purple-gaped Honeyeater and Southern Scrub-robin occur at some localities in the Box-Ironbark region, as do dry inland specialists such as the Cockatiel, Budgerigar, Black Honeyeater and White-fronted Honeyeater.

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