The Red Wattlebird is November's Bird of the Month.
The Red Wattlebird is one of the largest members of the Honeyeater family and plays a crucial role in the pollination of Australia’s flowering native trees and shrubs. It has a greyish-brown body and long tail, white streaks along the feathers of its upper parts and breast, and a distinctive yellow belly.
Its dark crown, beak and face are adorned by a red eye, a white patch on the cheek, and the fleshy pinkish-red wattles, for which it is named, hanging down from the edge of the patch.
The sexes appear similar, but young birds have a more dull appearance and less noticeable wattles.
Red Wattlebirds are found across southern Australia from south-eastern Queensland to south-western Western Australia. Their preferred habitat is eucalypt forest and woodland, but can extend their range into coastal heaths, parks and gardens to take advantage of flowering Banksias, Grevilleas and Hakeas. Their range does not extend into Tasmania where they are replaced by a close cousin, our largest Honeyeater, the Yellow Wattlebird.
Red Wattlebirds can be very aggressive toward other birds in defending their feeding or nesting sites, and announce their presence with loud raucous cackling calls, usually by the male, which, in the breeding season, are answered by a series of whistles by the female. A throaty “Chock” call by both sexes is believed to be a contact call.
The Red Wattlebird uses its curved bill to probe flowers and its bristle tipped tongue to collect nectar. While doing this they transfer pollen between flowers. While nectar from flowering trees and shrubs provide the bulk of its high energy diet, they will also feed on fruit and berries, catch flying insects or pick them, and their sweet lerps, from the foliage as they forage.
Usually seen in singles or pairs searching for or noisily defending a flowering territory, however during times of mass flowering large flocks can form and share the feast with Lorikeets and other species of Honeyeater.
The breeding season usually runs through late winter to mid-summer, but can be extended if conditions are suitable. A pair will come together and construct a rough, cup shaped nest of twigs and grass, usually in a forked branch hidden in the canopy of a tree. The nest is lined with feathers, fur or bark, and two to three eggs are laid. The eggs are incubated usually by both adults for 16 to 21 days, and the nestlings are fed by both parents for 15 to 20 days before they fledge.
After leaving the nest the young Wattlebirds are fed by the parents for another two to three weeks. If the adults nest a second time, the young from the first nesting may remain to help care for the new nestlings.
In the Park:
Red Wattlebirds can be found throughout the park in single or pairs during periods of flowering, particularly of Banksias and groves of eucalypts, larger numbers may be found. Their loud cackles and chocks may help to find them foraging in the foliage, particularly along the Kensington Pond, or among flowering Swamp Mahogany in Frog Hollow.