Honeyeaters feeding on melitose (sap) from Eucalypt trees

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: Honeyeaters feeding on melitose (sap) from Eucalypt trees
From: Lawrie Conole <>
Date: Tue, 15 Jul 2003 17:37:17 +1000
Alan Morris wrote:
Many mammals of course also feed on the sap and are the most likely animal who cuts the notch into the bark to make the sap flow, particluarly Yellow-bellied, Sugar and Squirrel Gliders.

Not wishing to be contradictory for the sake of it; I still feel a need to comment further on this.

Many sap sites that birds feed from are natural wounds caused by physical damage to the tree - others are at sites of insect attacks.  Yellow-bellied Gliders make very uniform vee-shaped incisions - quite unmistakeable.

Of the gliders though, there is little convincing evidence for any other than the Yellow-bellied Glider making serious incisions in eucalypts to deliberately cause a sap flow.  I've often heard that Sugar and Squirrel Gliders deliberately incise eucalypts in the same way, but can't say I've been convinced yet!  I'm somewhat convinced that Sugar Gliders deliberately incise wattles (Acacia mearnsii and A. pycnantha for example; in southern Victoria at least).  Otherwise, Sugar and Squirrel (and Feathertail) Gliders are opportunistic benefactors of the Yellow-bellied Gliders handiwork - just like the birds.

Mahogany Gliders in FNQ are known to deliberately incise grasstree (Xanthorrhoea johnstonii) flower spike stems to cause a sap flow.  Spotting their paw prints on the waxy grasstree flower spike stems is one way of detecting the presence of this species.

Lawrie Conole
Senior Ecologist
Ornithology & Terrestrial Ecology
Ecology Australia Pty. Ltd.
Flora and Fauna Consultants
88B Station Street
FAIRFIELD VIC 3078 Australia
E-mail: m("","lconole");">
Ph: (03) 9489 4191; Mob: (0419) 588 993
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