Spotted Pardalotes (Pardalotus punctatus) or Diamond Birds are about the size of the Eurasian Wren I described earlier, but whereas the wren is plain brown, pert-tailed and sharp beaked, the pardalote has showy patterning, an almost invisible tail and a rounded beak. The wren sings well too, while the pardalote gives a frequent monotonous 2 or 3 note call (they are also called Headache Birds!) The wren builds a neat little tree-nest whilst the pardalote digs a burrow.
Or maybe that last isn’t absolutely true. After seeing what looked like a mobile jewel case fly down to a hollowed and burnt tree, I went nearer to investigate:
By the time I got close, the female pardalote (for that’s what it was) had moved out and the male was poking around inside the split and fire-blackened trunk.
The female moved back to supervise:
They changed places a couple of times as they explored inside.
I wasn’t sure if they were seriously considering adapting the tree-hollow for nest, or had just found an unusual food source. The site was different from the usual Pardalote tunnel, which looks more like this:
After a while the birds flew off, and I walked on. When I returned a couple of hours later, I found that they were back inside the tree. That made me think that they were indeed establishing a nest site. For one thing, there is a low branch nearby, like other nest tunnels I have seen. When returning to the nest the birds usually pause on this branch, presumably to check for nearby predators, before flying down to the burrow. Here the female pauses, showing the yellow spots on her head; the yellow bib of the male is visible to the left in the tree hollow:
Shortly afterwards it was the male’s turn to sit outside, showing his white head-spots and “eyebrows”, and his yellow bib:
All of this was done in a dutiful but rather dour fashion. (Pardalotes don’t exhibit much playfulness or humour.) The pair then flew up into a leafy eucalypt canopy, and shortly afterwards, a pardalote flew out and into the tree above me. I pointed the camera at it:
But then I noticed its yellow “eyebrows” and realised it was a Striated Pardalote (Pardalotus striatus) - an entirely different bird. The pardalotes had pulled a switch on me! This was the last view I had of it:
Perhaps pardalotes do have a sense of humour after all.
The Pardalote genus is endemic to Australia. Taxonomists have found it difficult to distinguish boundaries between the various species and subspecies. The current view is that there are just four species, of which the Spotted and Striated are by far the commonest. The Forty-spotted Pardalote, found only in Tasmania, is listed as endangered. They all feed on lerp and other insects, generally gleaned by foraging in woodland canopies. This locale means they are often attacked by aggressive honeyeaters, and it has been suggested that their short tails evolved to give a pursuing honeyeater less to grab on to.
When I was watching the pair inspecting the tree trunk, a twitcher came by and commented that they were delightful little birds. I had to agree.
I have written before about pardalotes, for example here: pardalote-posing.html