Monday, March 27, 2006

Tasmania's 'Hummingbird'

If any Tasmanian bird deserves that epithet, I'm sure it would be the Eastern Spinebill. Our smallest honeyeater, but still something like twice the length and around four times the weight of the average hummingbird, but they have certain behavioural traits in common. They seem to dash in, feed on some, often tubular flower, frequently while hovering, and they're off again--perhaps it's the high glucose diet! The Spinebill, in my experience, is something of a nomad for much of the year, and I can't think of a spot that I could go to with any certainty of seeing one. Locally they seem more numerous during the flowering of the epacris, common in open woodland and heath, and flowering during the colder months. At other times, grevilleas and small flowered fuchsia seem popular. I've yet to see more than three or four at a time, usually on some particularly favoured flowering shrub. Pictured here is a male, photographed earlier this month, possibly an immature bird as it doesn't appear to have acquired the bright red eye of an adult.

3 comments:

John Tongue said...

I heard some reports last Spring of a birder in Sydney who was convinced he has seen a humingbird in that city, which turned out to be a Spinebill. They really are the closest thing we have. I hope to see the Western Spinebill when in Perth in a couple of months time, but if they're anything like our Eastern one, as you say, you can never be confident they'll be in any one particular place.

BirdingTas said...

My attempts to see hummingbirds have at times reached the comical stage. Despite 3 trips to the USA in recent years, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, commonly seen(by others)in Illinois, has alluded me. I suspect its' size is the problem. I have been out with others who have desperately tried to point them out. On one occasion one was feeding on (petunias?) on the balcony of the house I was staying in, and my desperate dash through the house was to no avail. This year!!

John & Shirley Tongue said...

We have friends who are missionaries in Argentina, who regularly get hummingbirds feeding in their garden. I think they said they were "Emerald (somethings)". Never having been to the Americas, we've never seen humingbirds, either. We have the Spinebills here, and up north they have the Sunbirds - which we have seen, and which are also a fitting 'alternative' to hummingbirds.