Some people say there’s not much to love about  red wattlebirds. And yes, they are aggressive little blighters, with a rasping call. But the bird is actually  quite striking, with a striated chest  and pale yellow ‘undercarriage’. Then there are  those little  ‘wattles’  below the eyes that give the birds  their name. More pink than red, but never mind.

Wattlebird in autumn.
Aren’t I just so handsome?

They are mainly nectar eating birds and love all our native flowers, especially waratahs  and grevilleas.

Wattlebird feeding on waratah
Wattlebird embellishing a waratah bloom.
Wattlebird sipping grevillea
Wattlebird sipping grevillea

Mind you, any nectar filled flower will delight them, they are not patriotic when it comes to food. The exotic red hot pokers are a favourite.

Wattlebird feeding on red hot pokers.
My red hot pokers never remain upright for long.

This reliance on nectar makes them difficult to raise by human hand. In 1950 a little Victorian girl called Shirley Julius had the care of a baby wattlebird for a couple of days. Any longer and it would have been a goner, because her provision of breadcrumbs was well intentioned, but  very misguided. She wrote to  the nature column of local newspaper;

‘One day last week when Daddy was raking the yard he found a little bird on the ground. He brought it into the house, I put it in a box and tried to feed it with crumbs. We had it for two days. I was knitting inside  and heard a noise. When I looked up the young wattlebird was sitting on the mantelpiece. His mother heard him calling and came to the front door and answered him. I took him out to her. She was so pleased to find her baby. They flew into a tree and both were very happy.’

All’s well that end’s well. This was not always the case for wattlebirds. They were shot for sport in the old days. On one occasion it did not end well for the shooter;

‘Tasmania owns a blind axeman, who can put a ‘scarf’ into a standing block as truly and dexterously as most men. He falls a tree – he son tells him how it leans – and uses his paling-knife well enough to support a wife and six children. He lost his sight twenty years ago from a gunshot  accidentally received while wattle-bird shooting. ‘The last objects I saw were a gum tree and a wattle-bird.’

They do love a bath.  I swear the one below knows how sweet it looks under those fuchsias.

Wattle bird bathing
A bit of a show-off.

At first I thought this poor fellow had flown into a window, but it had just found  a convenient place on the deck to dry off after a bath.

Wattlebird drying off.
Hanging out the washing.

I rarely see two wattle birds sitting this close together. Maybe the one with its head down  isn’t aware it’s not alone.


Will there be trouble?

Oh dear, he’s noticed. I think that’s what is called a baleful stare.


Keep the peace please!

I often wonder how warring wattlebirds ever find partners, but of course they do.

Red Wattlebird chicks
Getting those little lungs in shape.

I do have a grudging admiration for them. even though this photo by Wayne Sutcliffe sums them up.

  1. I love wattle birds. Great photos.

  2. Great photo essay. Thank you.

  3. That was a good post about wattle birds. I love the way you identify the birds visiting your garden and provide details about their habitat. I think your area would be a good place for bird-spotting and for capturing the way they spend their days.

    • Pauline

      It certainly would be, Heather. It is recognized as a wonderful place for birdlife. All the species that became extinct in Sydney still live up here.

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