I have obtained permission from my two ‘boss’ brown thornbills to write a little story about them and their relatives. We have a resident group in our Blue Mountains garden. They are really small; about 10cm long. They weigh in at around 7 grammes apiece. My darling husband told me this couldn’t be true…but it is!
I love to watch them them through the kitchen window when they are bathing. Look at this dear little fellow drying off in the morning sunshine;
They like perching nearby in my pot of succulents, which is often watered from their enthusiastic splashing.
Thornbills are respectful little characters. Here they are politely turning their backs as a silvereye takes its turn in the bath.
Right, our turn now chaps;
I think the pair above may be discussing where to build their nest. It is usually located only a couple of metres from the ground, but in very thick shrubbery. It’s made from grasses and bark and bound together neatly with spiders’ webs. The top of the structure projects like a little awning. Very sensible if you live here in ‘Bleakheath’.
Naturally thornbills lay the tiniest of eggs. There are usually three, which are white with rusty red speckles.
Thornbills are incredible mimics. When their nestlings are under threat they can reproduce the alarm calls of at least ten different birds. Listen to this amazing YouTube recording.
Sometimes they even try to look like a fierce predator;
Unfortunately there is one threat that a thornbill cannot defend itself against, because the enemy is so sneaky! It’s the problem of a fan-tailed cuckoo replacing one of those sweet little eggs with one of its own. The result is like something from a horror movie. The poor little thornbill parents wear themselves out trying to satisfy the hunger of their giant, ‘intruder chick’. Yes, I know it’s just part of nature, but it almost breaks my heart to watch them.
I adore these feisty little birds. Not surprisingly, they have always been regarded with affection;
Probably the combination of cheerfulness and lack of size brings out a protective feeling towards these small birds. The thornbills have always been popular with adults and even with boys. (Western Mail, June 1950)