Sun­birds all a twit­ter

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - PAUL MIL­TON BUT­LER

TWEET­ING all bird lovers, here’s some­thing that will cer­tainly make you twitch.

This Olive-backed sun­bird was pho­tographed in Port Dou­glas yes­ter­day with its chicks which are only sev­eral days shy of be­ing due to fledge and fly off and fend for them­selves.

An­drew Forsyth, of Red Mill House, a real bird watch­ers’ par­adise in the Dain­tree, said that even though this was the quiet time of the year for these par­tic­u­lar birds some still have chicks and need to be aware of their nat­u­ral preda­tors such as black butcher birds.

“What the black butcher bird does is to ’mon­i­tor’ the nests with the chicks and on the very day that they fledge and due fly off - and this is also when they’re at their fat­test - the butcher bird swoops in and de­vours the chicks,” Mr Forsyth said.

“And as most birds only raise two chicks this is quite dev­as­tat­ing but it is na­ture at work and so we can­not in­ter­fere.”

Mr Forsyth said what is com­monly called a sun­bird is in fact the Olive-backed sun­bird.

“Four years ago sci­en­tists dis­cov­ered that the DNA from the South East Asian Olive­backed sun­birds was ex­actly the same as the sun­birds here and so now they go un­der this col­lec­tive name,” he said.

“The fe­male birds usu­ally build the nests, which hang up­side down, and the male in­spects the nest through­out the build­ing, but the male helps with the feed­ing of the chicks.”

Sun­birds are a well-known and loved bird in the Wet Trop­ics as they of­ten build their nests on the ve­ran­das and porches of peo­ple’s homes. They seem to ex­ploit the fact that most preda­tory species are ner­vous around hu­mans and by build­ing their nests close to high ar­eas of ac­tiv­ity in peo­ple’s homes they gain some form of pro­tec­tion for their young.

Sun­birds usu­ally have two chicks with just one of them liv­ing to adult­hood, some­times they can have three chicks but this is rare. They take just 15 days to hatch and an­other 12 to 15 days to fledge (fly away). Three-lead­ing twitch­ing jour­nal­ists ar­rived at the Red Mill House last night to study a num­ber of birds within the Dain­tree for the next week and they will also be tri­alling a new iphone ap­pli­ca­tion that prom­ises to get all birders in a flap.

Aus­tralian Ed Wil­liams will be re­port­ing for the Aus­tralian Birdwatch mag­a­zine, Mike Wee­don from the UK will be re­port­ing for the Birdwatch mag­a­zine UK’S edi­tion and Amer­i­can Hugh Pow­ell is from Cor­nell Labs and will be re­port­ing for Orthi­nolo­gies Liv­ing Bird Song.

The three highly-re­spected jour­nal­ists among the bird-watch­ing com­mu­nity will be stay­ing in the Dain­tree for the next seven days to un­der­take their re­search which has also re­ceived fund­ing through an in­ter­na­tional grant to study birds in the Dou­glas re­gion.

Photo by NEIL WEAVERS

Nest­ing: Olive-backed Sun­bird

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