While I continue to wait for parts for my lens to come from abroad, and as the weather begins to cool down, and transition into our most bird less time of yea, my wife and I walked through our favorite reserve in the eerie quietness of what appeared to be a birdless forest. Then unexpectedly came the harsh grating throaty cough-like call of the Red Wattlebird. Ahh! there is a bird here and it is very obvious who it is!
So I decided to showcase this uniquely Aussie bird family, the Wattlebirds of which there are three distinct kinds. However there is a subspecies of the Little Wattlebird, now known as the Western Wattlebird found only in south west WA. These birds make up the largest of our honeyeaters and similar to the Noisy Miner featured last week can be at times just as aggressive. In the photo above sitting side by side you will notice the wattle which is the pendulous appendage hanging from the neck on either side. The Little Wattlebird (also known as the Brush Wattlebird) has such a small wattle that is is not visible, maybe it should be the Invisible Wattlebird. So let’s start:
The Red Wattlebird
This is the most widely spread of the three and most commonly found in the southern most coastal parts of the southern states, except Tasmania.Where there is open dry woodland and forest with flowering trees and shrubs. They have the perfect curved beak for probing flowers for nectar. They also eat insects and berries.
They are very aggressive to other birds when caring for their young. As you can see below the juvenile lacks the red wattle and the red eye, which come with maturity. The Red Wattlebird below is of the south western WA race, photographed by the Swan River in Perth, race woodwardi which has a broader rounder wattle to our local race curunculata.
The Red Wattlebird will not be harassed, but will defend its territory and food sources against other birds, considering it is the larger honeyeater, and it packs a painful bite to the tail of other birds. It also has technique of diving at very fast speed, toward other birds to chase them off. Being a territorial honeyeater similar in operation to the Noisy Miner they often have brawls with other honeyeaters. The red wattle never grows longer than a 2 to 3 centimeters.
The Yellow Wattlebird
This is Australia’s largest honeyeater and is endemic only to Tasmania. This bird develops quite pendulous wattles and is happier as a flock bird. It likewise feeds on native blossom from eucalypt trees and insects it finds around the flowers. Notice this younger bird with its developing wattle, swallowing a worm.
Now compare this much older bird, and see how those wattles hang.
The Little Wattlebird
The Little or Brush Wattlebird is found mainly on the coast east of the ranges in south east QUE, along the coasts of NSW and Victoria, south coast of SA and parts of eastern Tasmania. The Western race (or Western Wattlebird) is found only in the south west tip of WA. The feature watching this bird is how it hangs its tongue. Australian Honeyeaters have brush-like tips to their long tongues which they can extend quickly from an almost closed beak. The brush-like tip soaks up nectar using capillary attraction and is drawn up into the mouth. They can rapidly move the tongue in and out of their beak, with it only open a very little. Hence the name Brush. However, of the honeyeaters the Little (or Brush) appears to show its extended brush-tipped tongue more often. Watch this video and see.
One of the distinguishing and beautiful features of this bird is its unique chest plumage, which I think looks like a hair brush, but that is not where the brush name came from, it is the brush tipped tongue.
The juvenile lacks this frontal plumage, which develops with maturity, as it looses its orange head plumage.
Little Wattlebirds have an interesting landing posture at times, showing a curved back.
The call of the Little Wattlebird is quite distinguishable to the Red.
I love these captures of a pair of Little Wattlebirds .
To conclude look at this very special photo, can you detect what is special about it…
Yes, a Red Wattlebird is actually sharing the same Bottlebrush flower head as a Little Wattlebird. They are just drawing from opposing sides. Sharing like this is very rare among these birds. Even more interesting is what eventually followed in this next photo, when the Little guy moved the flower with its leg.
The more aggressive and larger Red left the Little to the flower. It makes one wonder whether each realised the other was there, as they were so engrossed in extracting nectar. We normally appreciate sharing is a caring and loving attribute, however with this recent world spreading killer virus COVID-19, even shaking hands and standing in the same room with someone can be a risk, let alone sharing flower nectar. Hand sanitizer and masks are out of stock everywhere, and many are panic buying food in case they have to isolate themselves from the community for either reason. Fear hyped by media dramatizations has gripped many. But in the midst or eye of the storm their is peace for those who want it. A shepherd boy David once wrote, referring to his love for and unflinching trust in his God which brought him peace in many difficult and life threatening situations he experienced throughout his life:
“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” – Psalm 23:4
If this is your first visit to my blog, why not explore my birding website via the HomePage which has had a recent face lift with some additional pages and changes in preparation for the next book release. Learn about the value of installing a Birdbath.
A new Young Birders Page will be available soon targetting 8 to 12 year olds and will have a special place where they can learn about our birds. If you would like to preview it you may, and if you know children who might be interested tell them. This will be geared toward my schools presentations and book sales.
Birding for Beginners is now a more complete compilation of my birding hints and instruction, in one place. It might be worth an explore if you have not explored before.
Have a wonderful week and stay safe!
NOTE: All photos, videos and music used on this website are photographed, composed, performed by the site owner and remains his copyrighted property, unless otherwise stated. The use of any material that is not original material of the site owner is duly acknowledged as such. © W. A. Hewson 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020.