BIRD: linking the biodiversity community
The Brush-tailed Phascogale (Phascogale tapoatafa), also known as the Tuan, is a small, nocturnal, arboreal, carnivorous marsupial. It is a uniform deep grey on the head, back and flanks, light grey to pale cream underneath with large naked ears and a conspicuous, black 'brushy' tail. There are two sub-species in Australia: P. tapoatafa tapoatafa, occurrs in southern Australia, P. tapoatafa pirata, in the north.
Habitat and ecology
The Brush-tailed Phascogale inhabits open dry foothill forest with little ground cover, typically associated with box, ironbark and stringybark eucalyptus. It now has a fragmented distribution, to the east and north-east of Melbourne, central Victoria around Ballarat, Heathcote and Bendigo; north-eastern Victoria from Broadford to Wodonga; the Brisbane Ranges north-east of Geelong; and far western Victoria from Mt Eccles to Apsley. The Brush-tailed Phascogale is a shy, cryptic species that occurs in low densities and forages over a very large home range (female 20–70 ha, males 100 ha) which means only small populations can exist in quite large areas of habitat.
Photo credit: Jerry Alexander. Photo credit: Andy Arnold. Photo credit: Andy Arnold. In typical phascogale habitat, a team from the Regent Honeyeater Project checks artificial nestboxes for signs of phascogales or Squirrel Gliders. Lurg Hills, north-eastern Victoria.
Brush-tailed Phascogale in nest box. Image Eileen Collins. click thumb for enlargement.
Brush-tailed Phascogales are primarily arboreal, and forage for their diet, which is predominantly large insects, spiders and centipedes, on the trunks and major branches of rough-barked eucalypt trees, fallen logs and amongst litter on the forest floor. Eucalypt nectar may be taken when ironbarks or boxes are flowering.
Hollows in dead or live trees provide preferred den sites, although nests constructed under flaking bark, or in tree stumps are sometimes used but provide a less secure substitute against predators in areas where hollows are scarce. Mating occurs in late autumn - early winter and males die after the breeding season at an age of about one year old. Females give birth to about six young from mid June to early August.
Clearing and fragmentation of preferred habitats combined with changes to the forest structure through timber and firewood cutting, grazing and previous gold mining has impacted upon habitat values. A reduced abundance of hollows limits breeding opportunities and increases exposure to predation from foxes and cats.
The loss of hollow-bearing trees from Victorian native forests has been listed as a potentially threatening process on Schedule 3 of the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988, largely because of the dependence of many vertebrates (including a number of rare species) on this habitat for shelter and nesting.
In the South West, actions are focused on key habitats at Wombat Forest (Yandoit Block), Hepburn Regional Park, Dunach Nature Conservation Reserve, Clunes State Forest, Mt Beckworth Scenic Reserve Mount Buangor State Park, Mount Cole Forest, Grampians National Park, Pyrenees State Forest, Lal Lal - Bungal Historic Area, Lal Lal State Forest, Brisbane Ranges National Park and Ararat Regional Park - Dunneworthy Block.
- Grampians National Park, Lal Lal – Bungal, Lal Lal Forest
- Assess habitat characteristics and/or condition & site for survey
- Identify preferred translocation site in Grampians NP.
- Brisbane Ranges National Park –
- Survey - Meredith to Steiglitz and determine current status. Input from Geelong Field Naturalists to assist with surveys from 2007.
- Mt Buangor State Park - North West, Mount Cole Forest - Grazing Right Track
- Protect habitat from fire and ensure that prescribed burning does not remove prime phascogale habitat.
- Roadsides managed by Strathbogie Shire (North East Region) and Vic Roads
- Erect/maintain signs to restrict or discourage access
- Consult with DSE prior to conducting roadworks.
- Ararat Regional Park - Dunneworthy
- Conduct 3 surveys over a 10 year period, every 3-4 years
- Ensure that prescribed burning does not remove prime phascogale habitat
Partnerships: Statewide: DSE, Parks Victoria, University of Melbourne. SW Region: University of Ballarat, Geelong Field Naturalists Club, Field Naturalists Club of Victoria, North East Region: Strathbogie Shire,
The Brush-tailed Phascogale Coordinating Group (BtPCG) has been meeting and coordinating the implementation of the Brush-tailed Phascogale Action Statement (FFG Act) since 1997. The BtPCG is not a recovery team per se, but essentially a working group that coordinates management actions that occur within a variety of woodland and dry forest ecosystems across the State. Since 2000, members of the BtPCG have been conducting systematic monitoring of a selection of the 40 Priority Management Areas, identified in the Action Statement, using the Brush-tailed Phascogale as a ‘focus’ species.
The long-term monitoring data have been analysed and published in an international journal. Holland G. J., Alexander J. S. A., Johnson P., Arnold A. H., Halley M. and Bennett A. F. (2012). Conservation Cornerstones: Capitalising on the endeavours of long-term monitoring projects. Biological Conservation 145: 95 – 101.
- Long term nest box study in the Bendigo area
- Searching for the Brush-tailed Phascogale April 2010-Watch the video clip
- Flora & Fauna Guarantee Action Statement No.79 -link to DSE pdf (209 KB)
- Current projects for threatened species & their habitats
- Record sightings
- Threatened species A-Z
This BIRD page is brought to you by the South West Integrated Flora & Fauna Team.
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