Ian’s Bird of the Week – Mistletoebird

 Mistletoebird (Dicaeum hirundinaceum) by Ian 1

Mistletoebird (Dicaeum hirundinaceum) by Ian 1

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Mistletoebird ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter ~ 12/23/12

As an ex-pat, I’ve never really got used to a hot Christmas in Australia. Here we sing carols about open sleighs, holly and ivy and the shops decorate their windows with fake snow, but it all seems a little contrived when the temperature is 31.4ºC/88.5ºF, the average maximum daily temperature for December in Townsville. We do, however, have mistletoe – lots of of growing on Eucalyptus trees – and, even better, Mistletoebirds, so I’ve chosen it as our Christmas bird of the week. It has featured as bird of the week before (August 2003 and June 2004) but originality is not a conspicuous feature of Christmas.

What were you doing under the Mistletoe on Christmas Day 2007? I was photographing the male Mistletoebird in the first photo gorging on a luscious Christmas lunch of Mistletoe berry. They’re tiny birds (9.5-11cm/3.75-4.3in) but have huge appetites, mistletoe berries not being very nutritious but they do the mistletoe a service by depositing rapidly-digested seed-containing excreta on the branches of the host trees. They’ll also eat the fruit of other plants (the fruits in photos 2 and 3 are not mistletoe), nectar and insects.

Mistletoebird (Dicaeum hirundinaceum) by Ian 2

Mistletoebird (Dicaeum hirundinaceum) by Ian 2

The males are striking with their Christmassy red breasts and vents, and blackish-blue iridescent backs and the specific name hirundinaceum means ‘swallow-like’, Hirunda being the generic name for typical swallows. The females (third photo) are a more subtle grey, but have reddish vents.

Mistletoebird (Dicaeum hirundinaceum) by Ian 3

Mistletoebird (Dicaeum hirundinaceum) by Ian 3

Mistletoebirds build exquisite pouch-shaped hanging nests and the fourth photo shows the young take after their parents in continually wanting food. Their nests are similar to those of Sunbirds and they are often placed in the same family Nectarinidae. Mistletoebirds are actually Flowerpeckers (Dicaeum) and are sometimes put in their own family, the Dicaeidae.

Mistletoebird (Dicaeum hirundinaceum) by Ian 4

Mistletoebird (Dicaeum hirundinaceum) by Ian 4

Being so unChristmassy here, I find that it sneaks up me un-noticed. Last year, all my Christmas cards arrived late, so my New Year Resolution was to not send any more and the money saved is going to the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, which I think has the best record for conservation and reserve management in Australia. So, I wish you an electronic Very Peaceful Christmas and a Lovely New Year. Just remember the Mistletoebird and its appetite when you contemplate the third helping of Christmas pudding tomorrow!


Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
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Lee’s Addition:

How appropriate is Ian’s photos of a neat little bird that loves Mistletoe. Thanks, Ian, and Merry Christmas to you also.

The Mistletoebird belongs to the Dicaeidae – Flowerpeckers Family. Also Ian’s Birdway photos for Dicaeidae, Nectariniidae & Promeropidae.

See more Ian’s Bird of the Week articles


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