Patterns of residency and movement among honeyeaters in Heathland near Sydney

Graham H. Pyke, Harry F. Recher, Paul J. O’Connor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


We present patterns of residency and movement derived from the results of a five-year program of banding birds and a three- year program of observing the location and behaviour of individually colour-banded birds in heathland in Brisbane Water National Park, near Sydney. New Holland and White-cheeked Honeyeaters account for most birds captured or observed in our study area. We define a resident bird to be one that is observed nesting andlor is repeatedly sighted in about the same area over a period of at least two days and then categorise species on the basis of whether or not resident individuals are present throughout most of the year. Those species that satisfy the latter criterion also exhibit high recapture rates whereas other species have relatively low recapture rates. We argue that our definitions are more useful than others in the literature. Based on the above definition and on recapture data, most individual New Holland and White-cheeked Honeyeaters are either transients that are captured just once and are never mapped as resident; or occasional residents that are captured more than once, visit our study area throughout their lives but satisfy our definition of resident only some of the time. Future residents, for example, spend some of their time on our grids for an average of eight months before being mapped as residents. There are also gaps of about three to five months between periods of residency. During summer, the residents appear to spend less time in our study areas than during the rest of the year. However, there appears to be no regular, seasonal movement of New Holland and White-cheeked Honeyeaters into and out of our study area. Residents show little variation over time in the locations of their centres of activity in the heathland and do not move far from these areas. Consequently, emigration of resident birds is negligible and departures of residents must be due to mortality. This mortality of residents, which averages about 54% p.a., is associated with low availability of nectar, the principal source of energy to these birds. Individuals often change partners but not unless their partner vanishes, presumed dead.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-39
Number of pages10
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1989
Externally publishedYes


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