To: "'Birding-aus'" <>
Subject: RE: MINERS = JUNK
From: "Osborn, Paul PR" <>
Date: Tue, 10 Jun 1997 12:07:03 +1000

lorne said
>>Hello BIRDLOVERS everywhere!!! Lorne in Sydney. As a >follow up to the 
>>soul who wrote up the article on the Peregrines at >Narrabeen... 
>>I thank god for Noisy Miners, as they have always lead me to >raptor 
>>delights. Without the HAWK ALARM calls by miners in my >native Beecroft, 
>>I would not have seen Bazas, Whistling Kites, Hobbies and >Collared
>>Often we dismiss birds such Noisy Miners as JUNK.
>>They are not.
I would agree that the hawk alarm call of the Noisy Miner is useful to
birdwatchers. My office overlooks some bush on the edge of Newcastle
University. This area has a large resident population of Noisy Miners.
My office bird list (since early 1990) stands at 55 species, 11 of these
are birds of prey. This would have to be considered a fairly high ratio.
Most of these would have been sighted as a response to the N.m's alarm
calls. It is now an inbuilt unconscious response for me to look up
whenever I hear the alarm. I am even starting to differentiate the
various subtle differences in the alarm call which appear to be species
specific. Mind you, I have not achieved anything near perfection, but
then neither have the miners; they still set off when a helicopter flies
over. I have spotted a lot of helicopters.

By contrast, the miners that inhabit the area near my home seem to be a
lot less vigilant about BoPs and my four chooks (domestic chickens, for
North American readers) are a more reliable guide to the presence of
BoPs than the local miners.

Noisy Miners are not highly regarded by many Australian birdos because
they tend to exclude a lot of other birds, particularly small
insectivorous ones and other, smaller honeyeaters, from their territory.
In suitable habitat, such as occurs near my home, this is not a problem
as the Miners stay in a fairly small area for a while until food
supplies start to decline and then move on to a nearby patch of bush.
When they vacate an area the small birds that were previously excluded
move in in large numbers. When the Miners left the immediate vicinity of
our home, we were invaded by Yelow-rumped Thornbills, Speckled Warblers,
Superb Blue Wrens, Yellow-faced and Brown-headed Honeyeaters, Spinebills
etc. etc.

The colony at Newcastle University, however, have nowhere to go, their
patch of bush is an island in a sea of suburbia, wetland and yes, even a
golf course. So they stay put. They actively 'farm' lerps, which feed on
the leaves of Eucalyptus and secrete a sugary substance for the birds.
In return the lerps receive protection from the small insectivorous
birds that eat them. The net result is that the environment slowly
degrades over time. The trees appear to be slowly weakening, in dry
times a few succumb and die. The weather has been relatively kind
lately, so the trees seem to be doing better but in the long term a new
balance will be arrived at. Whether or not this will result in a crash
of Noisy Miner numbers remains to be seen.

None of this can be blamed on the Miners, rather it's the result of
human activities. Lorne was right, Noisy Miners are not junk, people


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