Australian Native Birds - The Red Wattle Bird & the Little Wattle Bird & Yellow Wattle Bird
Red Wattle Bird
The Australian Native Red Wattle bird, is the largest honey-eater in Australia, with its striking and unusual colorings is a very acrobatic bird.
I watch them every morning searching for their food. Although they eat bugs and other insects they also love to eat the nectar of the gum, bottle-brushes (Callistemon) for some reason they prefer the Red Bottle Brush and grevillea trees when in flower.
They are great to watch as they dart in and out of the foliage and can often be seen hanging upside down to get at a especially nice looking flower.
Red Wattle Birds have a very distinctive Voices, a bit of a cross between a loud sneeze and a barking dog voice. Once heard you would know it every time.
The Yellow Wattle Bird is not on the Mainland of Australia and at this point of time is seen only in Tasmania and King Island which is a small farming and fishing island approx halfway between Tasmania and Victoria!
Incidentally King Island , being situated at the entrance to Bass Strait, is reported to be the shipwreck capital of Australia with over 60 shipwrecks and over 2000 lives lost in it's history!
Sounds of our Wattle Birds
Types of Wattle Birds
Strangely enough there is a number of different Wattle Birds in our area!
The different types are listed below:
- Red Wattle Bird
- Yellow wattle Bird
- Little Wattle Bird
The Red Wattle Bird is arguably the largest is the species and is conspicuous by it's large Wattles and bright Yellow abdomen.
The Little Wattle bird's name refers to the size of the Wattle rather than the size of the bird. In fact sometimes the Little Wattle bird's Wattle is not evident at all.
Sounds of the Wattle Bird
If you would like to hear the sounds of the various Wattle Birds please feel free to watch the short Slide-show video that I have put together to enhance the viewing experience!
Wattle bird 'hawking'
Red Wattle Bird uses Hawking to gather food
Nearly every night I can watch The Red Wattle bird seeking it's meal. One of the main methods the wattle bird uses is called 'Hawking'
Hawking, a term derived from the way that Hawks capture their food, is a method many types of birds use to catch insects that fly in the air.
The bird in question, in my case the Red Wattle Bird will perch on a limb of a tree and keep watch. When they spot an insect in the air they will leave their perch, fly out and snatch the insect with their beak, some times you can see the bird hovering in the air.
The Wattle Bird will then return to their cover and devour their catch.
And so the process continues until the bird is sated.
Hawking can also be called 'fly-catching' and some other breeds of birds that use this method of gathering food are 'swifts' 'swallows' and 'nightjars'
The Red Wattle Bird does not rely completely on this method of food gathering as they love to gather the nectar from the 'gum trees' and 'grevilleas'
Wattle Bird origin
Until just recently I thought that the Wattle Bird had got it's name due to it's relationship with our Australian native acacia tree with the common name of Wattle. However this is not the case at all!
So let me clear this up!. The Red Wattle Bird ( Anthochaera carunculata ) to give this bird it's correct name is not named because it eats or lives in the Wattle tree it is actually a member of the Honeyeater family.
The name 'Wattle' is a reference to the flesh like dewlap (see the image)that hangs down from either side of it's head similar I guess to we humans 'ear lobes'.
Other birds known to have this dewlap are chickens, turkeys.
The Red Wattle Bird in particular has a nest that is not all that big just a few twigs and bark placed in the fork of a branch. Generally the bird lays 2 or 3 eggs and the eggs seem quite large for a bird of it's size. The egg of a Wattle Bird measures around 36mm x 22mm.
Little Wattle Bird ( Anthochaera chrysoptera ) 27 - 33 cm
The Little Wattle Bird is about 6 cm smaller than it's big brother the Red Wattle Bird and it is hard to distinguish between a Juvenile Red Wattle and a Little Wattle bird.
The main difference is that the Little Wattle has no visible Wattles (go figure) and has a silvery patch down it's ears. The eyes of the Little Wattle bird are a Grey-blue color
The Little Wattle Bird is a noisy bird and can often be seen flying around in pairs apparently oblivious to everything around them. They also have a much more attractive voice and you can hear them having conversation with each other, the female in a higher pitch than the male and making different sounds of 'bill snapping' chuckling types of calls.
Breeding of Little Wattle Birds
They have a similar pattern to the Red Wattle Bird but they tend to hide their nests a bit better.
They also lay 2-3 eggs and fortunately for them their eggs are slightly smaller measuring only 29mm x 21mm.