Graeme Chapman - natural history photographer - ornithologist

Australian Birds

Dicaeum hirundinaceum
(Viewing 4 of 17 photos)

Click to listen to sound samples The Mistletoebird is certainly the most well-known but only one of three Australian birds that rely largely on mistletoe for their food, the other two both being honeyeaters, the Painted and the Grey. Mistletoebirds are the only member of the widespread overseas family of flowerpeckers to occur in Australia - they occur here everywhere there is mistletoe, throughout Australia and some islands to the north, but not in Tasmania. One of our smallest birds, they fly high and fast and can easily be overlooked unless you are familiar with their distinctive shrill call overhead.

Mistletoebirds have a specialised digestive system which has adapted to quickly digest the soft, sticky mistletoe berries - they eat little else but they do take nectar from mistletoe flowers, a few insects especially when nesting, and the odd other small fruits (see pic 564213). They have also evolved a peculiar behaviour of "wiping their bottom" to rid themselves of the sticky seeds thus helping in the spread of the parasitic mistletoe plants. (Compare with Painted Honeyeater which wipes its bottom a different way!) In most places, without Mistletoebirds the mistletoe itself would soon die out.

Mistletoebirds are locally nomadic, following the fruiting mistletoes which vary from place to place according to the species. They breed in pairs, mainly in spring and summer.

Photo: 564201

564201 ... Mistletoebird, adult male.

Photo: 564202

564202 ... Mistletoebird

Photo: 564203

564203 ... Mistletoebird, adult male.

Photo: 564204

564204 ... Mistletoebird, female.

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