One of the nicer small birds around North Sydney’s reserves is the Red-browed Firetail or Red-browed Finch (Emblema temporalis or Neochmia temporalis or Aegintha temporalis depending on the bird-book you favour). Whatever you choose to call it, an adult bird looks like this:
Firetails are typical finches, small with stocky bodies and broad stubby beaks suited to a seed diet. They are found in pairs or small flocks, in a variety of habitats spreading inland from Australia’s east coast. They particularly favour areas with seeding grasses, like this firetail on tippy-toes (tippy-claws?) in the local Tunks Park reserve:
The branches of the she-oaks (Casuarinas) in Tunks Park are also popular, as perches from which to peck at seeds or to groom or just chill out on a warm afternoon:
They don’t stray too far from a water supply, which may be one reason for their favouring Tunks Park. There are also firetails at the Randwick Environmental Centre, where I saw this one heading down to water:
Immature firetails are distinguishable from the mature birds by the lack of the red markings above the eyes and on the side of the bill. This one was politely waiting for a number of honey bees to vacate a water tank overflow at Hill Top, south-west of Sydney, just before dusk.
As the bees moved on, the other firetails began to close in for their own pool party.
Apart from a bit of dunking, though, their party appeared to be a rather sober affair.
Firetails are undoubtedly dour little birds, but their sobriety makes them very restful to watch.
A tendency to dourness seems to be a universal finch attribute. Half a world away, in Antigua, I saw the same po-face in this Antillean bullfinch!
North Sydney – my home suburb – holds Sydney’s second largest CBD. However its parks and bushland areas, and those of neighbouring councils such as Willoughby, host a surprising variety of native flora and fauna. These bush areas are maintained by dedicated council staff, often working with local resident volunteers.