RE: Bell Miners

To: <>
Subject: RE: Bell Miners
From: "Paul McDonald" <>
Date: Mon, 4 Dec 2006 12:19:40 +1100
Dear Brian and others,

At present I'm working on Bell Miners down in Melbourne, although significantly 
smaller colonies than those at Merimbula (on matters other than habitat 
degredation). However, as the story mentioned there is scant evidence that Bell 
Miners actually cause dieback. True, they are often found in association with 
areas affected, hence the catchy acronym BMAD (Bell Miner associated dieback). 
The large-scale removal currently underway is an experimental opportunity to 
test some of these ideas, however it is still only a sample size of 1 (albeit a 
large one!). A PhD student at La Trobe University, Amada Dare, is currently 
doing some work along with the gov organisations mentioned in the story on this 

Personally, I don't believe BMs cause the problem, though they are likely to 
probably make it worse. I think it is much more likely that they move to areas 
already under stress and thus already high in psyllid infestation. Other 
factors such as soil fungi and changing water flow patterns are probably just 
as likely to blame. Noisy Miners have similar associations, though tree health 
seems less affected. Both species significantly reduce avian diversity, however 
this 'problem' is much older than the apparent recent trend for increasing 
dieback levels. In any case good places to start for those interested in 
looking at the scientific literature on the topic could start at:

                Clarke MF, Schedvin N, 1999. Removal of bell miners Manorina 
melanophrys from Eucalyptus radiata forest and its effect on avian diversity, 
psyllids and tree health. Biological Conservation 88:111-120.

                Ewen JG, Crozier RH, Cassey P, Ward-Smith T, Painter JN, 
Robertson RJ, Jones DA, Clarke MF, 2003. Facultative control of offspring sex 
in the cooperatively breeding bell miner, Manorina melanophrys. Behavioral 
Ecology 14:157-164.

                Grey MJ, Clarke MF, Loyn RH, 1997. Initial changes in the avian 
communities of remnant eucalypt woodlands following a reduction in the 
abundance of noisy miners, Manorina melanocephala. Wildlife Research 24:631-648.

                Grey MJ, Clarke MF, Loyn RH, 1998. Influence of the Noisy Miner 
Manorina melanocephala on avian diversity and abundance in remnant Grey Box 
woodland. Pacific Conservation Biology 4:55-69.

There are other papers by Mike Clarke and also Richard Loyn on the topic, most 
of which are cited in these.

Happy birding,

Dr Paul G. McDonald
Department of Zoology
La Trobe University
Bundoora, Victoria 3086
Ph: + 613 9395 3253       Fax: +613 9395 3150


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