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Key plants used by Australian birds

"muyaan" = plants [yuwaalayaay]

Birds using plants Plants using birds
It is easy for all to see that birds use plants. Below we provide a short introduction to a few key species and to how birds use plants. Conversely, many native Australian plants use birds, for example as pollenators or as distributors of their seeds.

In addition to our pages on bird habitats, we have collected some basic information on a small number of plant species that we have found to play key roles in the lives of various bird species. This list is at present only a starting point and it is not meant to be complete in any way. The plants listed here are just a small number that we know about and in which we have seen birds. We present here only plants native to Australia. For details consult the relevant literature (or Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia).

Some types/groups of plants are represented in the bird habitat pages, such as e.g. grassland in general, coastal spinifex grass, inland spinifex (triodia) grass, reeds and also mangroves. In Australia, as on other continents, various types of trees play a vital role in the lives of birds, most notably various species of eucalypts, which - together with other species - form woodlands and forests.

Note that lists of bird species using various types of plants are necessarily biased, because many bird species do not use plants at all. There are some that always stay in the air (e.g. Fork-tailed Swifts and White-throated Needletails, while others, especially aquatic birds, often perch and roost in open, unvegetated areas such as e.g. mudflats, shallows of lakes or coastal beaches or rockfaces or stay on or above water at all times (pelagic birds).

Where possible, we try to provide Aboriginal names for plant species presented on these pages, see e.g. the page on Aboriginal names of eucalypts.

Common name(s) Scientific name Short description
Eucalypt Eucalyptus [...] A whole family of resinous, evergreen trees found basically all over the Australian continent; major source of both nectar and seeds for honeyeaters and parrots/cockatoos; see also the pages on forest habitats and woodland habitats
River Red Gum Eucalyptus camaldulensis A type of eucalypt found along watercourses; important sites of nesting hollows, e.g. for various species of cockatoos
Swamp Mahogany Eucalyptus robusta A type of eucalypt found mostly along watercourses in eastern Australia; source of nectar preferred by several species of honeyeaters
Mistletoe Loranthaceae, Santalaceae A whole genus of parasitic plants that host on other plants; propagated in Australia by the Mistletoebird; source of nectar preferred by some species of honeyeaters
Figtree Ficus [...] A whole family of fruit-bearing trees supporting fruit-eating species, mostly in high to medium rainfall areas; important food source e.g. for fruit-eating doves
Casuarina, Belah, She-oak Casuarina [...] A whole family of trees/shrubs with flowers providing birds with nectar and with seedpods on which Glossy Black-Cockatoos feed
Grevillea Grevillea [...] Grevillea trees and shrubs with spidery flowers; major source of nectar sought after (not only) by many species of honeyeaters
White Cedar Melia azedarach Fruit-bearing decidious tree in the Great Dividing Range and in the north of the continent
Banksia Banksia [...] A whole family of evergreen trees/shrubs which form a major supply of nectar for many bird species, such as e.g. honeyeaters
Bottlebrush Callistemon [...] Family of evergreen shrubs with dense foliage; valuable source of nectar for honeyeaters and parrots/lorikeets
Grasstree Xanthorrhoea [...] Family of palm-like tree species; their flowers are a valuable source of nectar e.g. for Silvereyes
Emu-bush Eremophila [...] A whole family of trees/shrubs providing valuable nectar and seeds in semi-arid environments for both honeyeaters and parrots/cockatoos
Wilga Geijera parviflora Small shrubs/trees with dense foliage drooping down to the ground, providing ideal hiding places, e.g. for bowers of bowerbirds
Mulga Acacia aneura Trees/shrubs providing living space for birds in the arid interior of Australia
Cypress pine Callitris [...] Conifers providing living space for birds mostly in the semi-arid interior of Australia, but also Tasmania; favourite tree species of White-browed Babblers
Cooba Acacia salicina Tree bearing fruit favoured by parrots/cockatoos
Gidgee Acacia cambagei A whole group of acacias (but mostly referring to species "cambagei") found in semi-arid to arid environments
Mangrove Rhizophora [...] Family of trees or shrubs that grow in saline coastal sediment habitats; see also the page on intertidal/mangrove wetlands
Lignum Muehlenbeckia florulenta Shrubby wetland plant growing around the edges of water in parts of the interior of the continent

These pages are largely based on our own observations and those of our contributors. The structure of these bird pages is explained HERE. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.

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