Ian’s Bird of the Week – Eastern Spinebill

Eastern Spinebill (Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris) male by Ian

Eastern Spinebill (Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris) male by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Eastern Spinebill by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter 07-21-10

The Spinebills, Eastern and Western, are in my opinion the most elegant of the Honeyeaters so here is the Eastern Spinebill – I haven’t yet managed to photograph the Western Spinebill of SW Western Australia – with the winning combination of tasteful colours and long, fine, curved bill. The bill is adapted to probing for nectar in the flowers of Bottlebrushes, as in the first photo, or Grevilleas and they also feed on insects.

Eastern Spinebill (Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris) female by Ian

Eastern Spinebill (Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris) female by Ian

Males and females are subtly different as the male has a black crown with a sharp transition to the rufous nape while the female has a greyish crown with a gradual transition to the rufous nape. The bird in the first photo is a male, while the one in the second, coming down to drink in a creek, is a female.

Both these birds were photographed in the highlands around Paluma, not far from Townsville. The Eastern Spinebill is found in Tasmania and coastal southeastern and eastern Australia from the Mount Lofty Ranges in South Australia to Fraser Island in SE Queensland and there is an isolated population in the highlands of northeastern Queensland from Eungella near Mackay to Cooktown north of Cairns. This is perhaps a separate race, named cairnsensis.

I am keen to get feedback on recent changes to the website from visitors with slower, e.g. dial-up, connections. The inclusion of thumbnails to all the 142 bird families represented in the site means that the homepage – http://birdway.com.au/index.htm – has a lot of stuff on it to download. If you have found this a problem, please let me know ian@birdway.com.au as I can easily move the ‘Instant Guide to Bird Families’ to a separate page. This would make the homepage faster and make viewing all the thumbnails optional with a link from the homepage.

Best wishes,

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:

I don’t know about going to Ian’s site with a slow connection, but I sure do enjoy his new layout. I can jump right to the family I am looking for. I really appreciate your hard work on the front page, Ian. Click to see more of Ian’s photos of Eastern Spinebills.

Spinebills are in the Meliphagidae – Honeyeaters Family which 182 species and is in the Passeriformes Order.

13–16 cm (5–6 in) long, the male Eastern Spinebill has a long thin downcurved black bill with a black head, white throat with a reddish patch and red iris. It has a brownish-red nape, a grey brown back and pale cinnamon underparts. The dark tail is tipped with white laterally. Females and juveniles are smaller and duller. The call is a rapid piping.

The Eastern Spinebill feeds on nectar from many plants, including the blooms of gum trees, mistletoes Amyema spp., Epacris longiflora, Epacris impressa(common heath), Correa reflexa, and various members of the Proteaceae such as Banksia ericifolia, Banksia integrifolia, Lambertia formosa and Grevillea speciosa, as well as small insects and other invertebrates. A 1982 study in the New England National Park in North-eastern New South Wales found that there was a large influx of birds coinciding with the start of flowering of Banksia spinulosa there. They have been known to feed from exotic plants such as Fuchsias.

My son, eat honey because it is good, And the honeycomb which is sweet to your taste; So shall the knowledge of wisdom be to your soul; If you have found it, there is a prospect, And your hope will not be cut off. (Proverbs 24:13-14 NKJV)

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