Changing bird communities of an agricultural landscape: declines in arboreal foragers, increases in large species.
Birds are declining in agricultural landscapes around the world. The causes of these declines can be better understood by analysing change in groups of species that share life-history traits. We investigated how land-use change has affected birds of the Tasmanian Midlands, one of Australia's oldest agricultural landscapes and a focus of habitat restoration. We surveyed birds at 72 sites, some of which were previously surveyed in 1996-1998, and tested relationships of current patterns of abundance and community composition to landscape and patch-level environmental characteristics. Fourth-corner modelling showed strong negative responses of aerial foragers and exotics to increasing woodland cover; arboreal foragers were positively associated with projective foliage cover; and small-bodied species were reduced by the presence of a hyperaggressive species of native honeyeater, the noisy miner (Manorina melanocephala). Analysis of change suggests increases in large-bodied granivorous or carnivorous birds and declines in some arboreal foragers and nectarivores. Changes in species richness were best explained by changes in noisy miner abundance and levels of surrounding woodland cover. We encourage restoration practitioners to trial novel planting configurations that may confer resistance to invasion by noisy miners, and a continued long-term monitoring effort to reveal the effects of future land-use change on Tasmanian birds.