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Key plants used by Australian birds:
Birds as seed distributors

Birds using plants Plants using birds
It is easy to see that birds use a variety of plants. There are various ways in which they do this. We have prepared a short summary of how birds use plants. Conversely, many native Australian plants use birds. For example, they can use birds (in addition to, or rather than, insects), in particular nectar-eating species, as pollinators or - primarily fruit eaters - as seed distributors (see below).

In nature, plants using birds is serious business, because the survival of some species may depend on the distribution of seeds by birds. Unfortunately, this does not only apply to native plants, but also to many introduced weeds. A few examples are shown here.

Dissemination of fruit seeds

It may come as a surprise, but the seeds eaten by birds (e.g. grass seeds or grains, such as e.g. sorghum) are NOT those that lead to the propagation of the plant species, because those seeds are being ground down and then digested by birds. Instead, the seeds that survive the journey through the digestive system of birds are the stones and pips of FRUIT eaten by birds.

Mistletoe

The most prominent example of a bird taking the flesh of a fruit, but passing through the plant's live seeds is the propagation of mistletoe by the Mistletoebird.

The sticky mess left behind by a Mistletoebird that could not quite hold on to a metal wire; if these seeds were to be deposited on tree bark, they would germinate and a new Mistletoe plant would develop
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2008]

Quandong

A plant that uses the Emu for disseminating its seeds is the Quandang tree (or "Native Plum"). Its fruit hang so high, and are so big, that other bird species of the interior of the continent, where the Quandong grows, cannot either reach or swallow them.

Near-ripe fruit of the Quandong tree
[Near Binnaway, NSW, September 2015]

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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