Ian’s Bird of the Week – Frill-necked Monarch

Frill-necked Monarch (Arses lorealis) by Ian

Frill-necked Monarch (Arses lorealis) by Ian

Newsletter – 12/16/2009

Frill-necked Monarch (Arses lorealis) by Ian

Frill-necked Monarch (Arses lorealis) by Ian

On our recent trip to Cape York Peninsula, we came across several Frill(-neck)ed Monarchs in the Lockhart River – Iron Range district. This is quite similar to the Pied Monarch of the wet tropics of northeastern Queensland, but lacks the black breast band and has a more extensive frill and broader blue eye-rings. I’ve qualified the name as the original Frilled Monarch of northern Cape York Peninsula, Torres Strait and Papua New Guinea (Arses telescopthalmus) has recently been split into the Frilled Monarch of Torres Strait and PNG and the new Frill-necked Monarch (Arses lorealis) of northern Cape York Peninsula.

The bird in the first photo is a male, distinguishable by having black lores and a black bib, or maybe goatee would be more appropriate. It’s doing something with either the white honeydew on the flower stalk or the insects (aphids or scale insects) responsible for the honeydew. More about the ‘something’ in a moment.

Earlier the same day, another Frill-necked Monarch carrying nesting material revealed the location of her nest, hanging, hammock- or swing-like, from a long vine over a creek, a typical location thought to discourage predation by animals such as arboreal snakes. This bird stayed in the nest for a few minutes, left and then, I thought, returned. It was only later, when examining the photos that it I realised that the second bird was her mate. If you look carefully, you can see the white chin (and maybe the pale lores) of the female in the second photo and the black goatee and lores of the male in the third photo.

Frill-necked Monarch

Frill-necked Monarch

The fourth photo was intended to show how precariously the nest was built at the end of at least 3 metres of vine, and, again, it was only later that I noticed that one branch of the vine was broken (in the centre of the photo). It’s still attached above the nest to the other strand of the vine and I wondered whether this attachment was serendipitous or had been done as a repair by the birds. Monarchs are supposed to use cobwebs to glue their nests together. I then wondered whether the bird in the first photograph was feeding on the aphids/scale insects, feeding on the honeydew (as some birds do such as the New Zealand Honeyeater the Tui) or collecting the honeydew as glue – it’s very sticky – for nest construction.

Back at the website, I’ve added photos of:
the Cape York race of the Masked Finch
the northern race of the Black-throated Finch
Wandering Whistling-Duck
White-bellied Sea-Eagle being fed on garfish by the Ferryman at Karumba
Golden-shouldered Parrot
White-faced Robin
Yellow-legged Flycatcher/Flyrobin
So it’s no wonder I’m late with my Christmas cards yet again!

I wish you all a safe and happy Christmas and best wishes for the New Year,

Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: +61-7 4751 3115
Preferred Email: ian@birdway.com.au
Website: http://birdway.com.au

Lee’s Addition:

And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth. (Genesis 1:22 NKJV)

The Frill-necked Monarch (Arses lorealis) is a species of songbird in the Monarchidae family. It is endemic to the rainforests of the northern Cape York Peninsula. It was considered a subspecies of the related Frilled Monarch (Arses telescophthalmus) for many years before being reclassified as a separate species in 1999.

The Frill-necked Monarch is a member of a group of birds termed monarch flycatchers. This group is considered either as a subfamily Monarchinae, together with the fantails as part of the drongo family Dicruridae, or as a family Monarchidae in its own right. Molecular research in the late 1980s and early 1990s revealed the monarchs belong to a large group of mainly Australasian birds known as the Corvida parvorder comprising many tropical and Australian passerines. More recently, the grouping has been refined somewhat as the monarchs have been classified in a ‘Core corvine’ group with the crows and ravens, shrikes, birds of paradise, fantails, drongos and mudnest builders.

Alternative common names include Australian Frilled Monarch, and White-lored Flycatcher.

The Frill-necked Monarch measures around 14 cm (5.5 in) in length, and the neck feathers can become erect into a small frill; the male is predominantly black and white, and can be distinguished from the similar and more common Pied Monarch by its all-white breast-the latter species having a broad black breast band. The throat, nape, shoulders, and rump are white while the wings and head are black. It has a eye-ring of bare skin, and a bright blue wattle. The bill is pale blue-grey and the eyes are dark. The female is similar but lacks the eye-ring and has white lores and a brownish tinged chest.

Breeding season is November to February with one brood raised. The nest is a shallow cup made of vines and sticks, woven together with spider webs and shredded plant material, and decorated with lichen. It is generally sited on a hanging loop of vine well away from the trunk or foliage of a sizeable tree about 2–10 metres (6.6–33 ft) above the ground. Two pink-tinged oval white eggs splotched with lavender and reddish-brown are laid measuring 19 mm x 14 mm.

Video of a Frilled Monarch (Arses telescopthalmus) by Keith.

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