Suitable nesting sites for specialized cavity dependent wildlife are rare in woodlands

Dejan Stojanovic, Laura Rayner, McLean Cobden, Stuart Harris, Robert Heinsohn, Giselle Owens, Adrian Manning

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Non-excavating species that prefer rare combinations of cavity traits are limited to only a fraction of the available tree cavity resource. Understanding animal preferences and quantifying the abundance of suitable cavities is fundamental to protecting non-excavators. We aimed to identify the traits of trees and cavities selected by a vulnerable, non-excavating bird, the superb parrot Polytelis swainsonii. We also evaluated cavity abundance and the accuracy of ground-based survey techniques (where an observer estimated the number of cavities in the canopy with binoculars from the ground). We then climbed trees to accurately identify true cavities and to measure their internal dimensions. Ground-based counts of tree cavities were correlated with the true number of cavity entrances in trees. When trees had zero cavities, ground counts overestimated their abundance, but for cavity-bearing trees ground counts underestimated their abundance. We found that superb parrot nest trees contained more cavities than random trees. Superb parrots selected cavities that were deeper, with wider floors and entrance sizes than random cavities. Cavities with the combination of selected traits comprised only 0.5% of the standing cavity resource. Our results confirm that non-excavators can be very selective about the types of trees and cavities they use for nesting. Rarity of suitable cavities may be a factor limiting the population growth and recovery of superb parrots. Without accounting for the critical information gap between what is observed on the ground, and what is in fact present in trees, effective habitat management for non-excavators may be compromised by inaccurate assessments of cavity abundance and conservation status.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalForest Ecology and Management
    Publication statusPublished - 2021

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