Foraging behaviour of mulga birds in Western Australia. II. Community structure and conservation
Pacific Conservation Biology
School of Natural Sciences
Mulga (Acacia aneura) woodlands dominate much of arid and semiarid Australia. Although mulga woodlands are floristically and structurally diverse, the composition of the mulga avifauna is consistent across the continent, with 50–70% of bird species shared between sites and a high proportion of migratory and nomadic species. A comparison of avian foraging guilds in mulga woodlands in the Murchison and Gascoyne Bioregions of Western Australia with those in the Northern Territory identified nine guilds. All guilds occurred at the three locations studied during wet years. The number of bird species, species’ abundances, and the number of guilds declined on the Western Australian sites when there was less rain. Despite the commonality of guilds and species between sites, there were differences between sites and years in the grouping of species, with many species best associated with two or more guilds. These differences reflected differences between locations and wet and dry years in the food resources available to birds, which affected how species foraged. Particularly noticeable were the differences between sites and years in migratory and nomadic birds, which in Western Australia and the Northern Territory were the most abundant birds during wet conditions, but largely absent when conditions were drier.