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The organization of a honeyeater community in an unpredictable environment

Australian Journal of Ecology 11(2): 107-120

The organization of a honeyeater community in an unpredictable environment

The honeyeater community of an open-layered forest was studied in the New England National Park, Australia, over a 2.5 year period. Various aspects of honeyeater behaviour (aggression, social and foraging) were examined during transects and by use of time-budgets. Time-budgets were used to estimate the daily energy requirements for each species. Since nectar availability in the study area was variable, the energy produced per day by the nectar sources was occasionally insufficient to meet the daily energy demands of the honeyeater community. No strong spatial partitioning of the nectar resources by the birds was found. Use of the resources appeared to be based primarily on dominance interactions (interspecific aggression), with the larger species tending to dominate the smaller ones. Smaller species survive in the area because of their behavioural attributes and greater foraging efficiency which enables them to use the sparse supply of nectar on poor days. Temporal gradients in nectar richness may be just as important as spatial gradients in permitting the coexistence of species which use the same resource in the same habitat. Most of the results from this study fail to support the predictions made elsewhere concerning the organization of communities in unpredictable environments.

Accession: 006728905

DOI: 10.1111/j.1442-9993.1986.tb01382.x

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