Monday, December 23, 2013

Who uses tree cavities and nest boxes in PNG?

Who uses tree cavities and nest boxes in PNG?

Part of the study surveyed publications to tally which species are known to occupy cavities for den or nest sites.  As might be expected, there are quite a few species in New Guinea where we have no records of where they nest or den.  But from the records we could find, at least 50 species of mammals and 118 species of birds use tree cavities.  That makes this a pretty important resource! 

We also were able to count how many trees have cavities in a hectare of lowland rainforest thanks to a project by the Binatang Research Centre in Madang that included felling the trees in a hectare of primary and a hectare of secondary forest.  The secondary forest had no cavities and a hectare of primary forest had 26 cavities, mostly in large trees-- the same ones that would be harvested by loggers.  In other words, those 168 species of birds and mammals are somewhat to very reliant on there being large trees in primary forest.  Availability could decrease as more and more forest is logged in the New Guinea region.

So did the nest boxes attract many occupants?  After less than a year, things were moving into the boxes.  Sugar gliders and Northern common cuscus moved in some boxes at Wasu, especially the largest ones.  A good assortment of snakes and geckos also moved in.  Honeybees occupied quite a few boxes and probably kept out mammals and birds.  The team had to be careful when climbing up to inspect a box to make sure they weren't going to be stung when so vulnerable high in a tree. Unfortunately we were not able to follow up with long term monitoring at Wasu for a variety of reasons (Searching for pekpek lays it all out).  We think it takes many months for animals to find the boxes.

Sugar glider at the bottom of a box, it has built a nice den of leaves in the box.

Sugar gliders would burrow into the wood shavings we put in the boxes.

At Gahavasuka Daniel Solomon Okena monitored 30 boxes for about two years and found Silky cuscus (8) took to them quite readily, along with more Sugar gliders.  We did not have birds moving into the boxes to nest.  We did find feathers in some boxes, suggesting maybe they roosted in the boxes at night.  But the monitoring period was relatively short and quite possibly with a bit more time birds will find them in future breeding seasons. 

A few Sugar gliders in a box with fresh leaves added to their den.

A gecko inside one of the nest boxes

What started with some incidental observations at Crater Mountain, led to a nice project by the gang at the PNG Institute of Biological Research and a publication in Tropical Conservation Science.

you can get the full publication here under the Academic Research tab
 or at:

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