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.
They are mainly nectar eating birds and love all our native flowers, especially waratahs and grevilleas.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I often wonder how these warring birds ever find partners, but of course they do.