Winter Ecological Energetics of 2 Passerine Bird Species in Temperate Wet Forest Academic Article uri icon


  • Autumn and winter time-energy budgets were constructed for brown thornbills, Acanthiza pusilla, and eastern yellow robins, Eopsaltria australis, inhabiting a temperate wet forest in south-eastern Australia. Birds spent 84-88% of daylight hours foraging in both seasons, but decreased the metabolic cost of other activity in winter by spending more time on energetically inexpensive behaviours. Estimated daily energy expenditures were either seasonally constant or increased (thornbill) or decreased (robin) in winter by no nore than l0%, depending on the assumed degree of substitution for the thermoregulatory requirement. Thornbills increased foraging efficiency in winter to compensate for the reduction in absolute foraging time. Less dramatic changes in behavioural strategies were required to achieve energy balance than have been recorded for many small north temperate birds. Brown thornbills used an energetically expensive, active search foraging technique to capture small, cryptic prey at a fast rate. Yellow robins employed an inexpensive, 'sit-and-wait' strategy to capture larger, more conspicuous prey at a slower rate. Both species had similar time investments in foraging, but allocated greatly differing proportions of energy to active foraging and resting alert. These contrasting strategies offer the potential for performing several activities simultaneously in the yellow robin and for reducing foraging and vigilance investments through exploiting gregariousness in the brown thornbill.

publication date

  • 1988

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