THE SWEET SILVEREYES
It’s hard to believe that many of these tiny birds migrate annually from Tasmania to as far north as southern Queensland. What an epic journey for them. Back in the mid 19thC a wild storm swept a flock to New Zealand, where they have been living happily ever since.
Now many years ago one tired little traveler apparently found it all a bit much, and took a break in Sydney’s inner city. The following article appeared in The Sydney Sun on January 28 1932.
Alighting on the handlebars of a constable’s bicycle while he was patrolling the streets of Redfern early this morning, a small grey, silver eyed bird retained its unusual perch for more than two hours, submitting to friendly arrest at the Redfern Police Station.
Constable Sawtell was astonished when the tiny bird fluttered gently onto his machine. He stopped and stroked the visitor, but as it did not seem inclined to fly away he decided to take it on his lonely round.
Known generally as the ‘silvereye’, the bird tucked its head under its wing and went to sleep as soon as the constable began pedalling. Each time he stopped it awakened, and this went on for two hours, until the constable wheeled his bike into the Redfern Police Station. The bird took a sleepy interest in the proceedings, but showed no desire to leave. Shortly afterwards the constable released his feathered companion in Redfern Park.
On the following day another piece appeared, where the silvereye gave his own cheeky version of the story. Renowned for stealing fruit, the little robber admitted he couldn’t resist having a bit of fun at the policeman’s expense. Turns out he wasn’t sleeping at all;
I do love the silvereyes. They are not regular visitors to my Blue Mountains garden, but often in spring or autumn they arrive in flocks to feed, especially in the Japanese maples. So hard to photograph, as they are in perpetual motion. By the way, that ring around the eye is formed by minute, silvery feathers.
I caught the fellow below last autumn while he was in a brief, contemplative state. I believe the modern term for this is ‘mindfulness’.
Silvereyes build delicate nests for their eggs, often quite close to the ground. I loved this description of their nests from 1904, when horses were still the main means of transport in Sydney;
The disappearance of silvereyes from my Sydney garden was a big factor in my move to The Mountains. I hope they don’t vanish completely from the city. They need lots of protection from cats and the aggressive native miner and Indian mynah birds. A dense underplanting of native shrubs helps.