The Eastern Spinebill always looks so neat in his grey and brown suit teamed with a white shirt. Only measuring about 15cms, his curved beak is almost as long as his body. I like to imagine him as a legal clerk, dipping into a pot of black ink to produce a fine, copperplate script! 😍
It’s easy to see why these dear little birds were once dubbed ‘Cobbler’s Awls‘.
Of the Australian native plants, all the varieties of correas, banksias and grevilleas are Spinebill favourites in my Blue Mountains garden.
Mind you, it’s not only native flowers they feed on. Here is one sipping the flowers of fragrant star jasmine.
Surely this is the closest we have in Australia to a hummingbird, despite that sober dress.
One of the most common and hardiest fuchsias in Blue Mountains gardens is known as Spinebill Fuchsia, because the birds love it so much. I don’t think I’ve ever heard its real name. It’s the plant that has naturalised in Ireland, and grows there in the hedgerows. Here in Blackheath we have those same cool, misty days.
Daphne is another favourite, especially as it flowers during winter in the Blue Mountains.
And then there are the environment weeds, which escape into the National Park, but are so hard to remove whenever a sight like this presents itself. 😪
When there are babies to feed a bit of protein doesn’t go astray. This fellow was after insects in an ivy covered tree-fern; mosquitoes I hope, after all our summer rain!
A catch! Poor little moth.
The female Spinebill builds a cup shaped nest from materials such as grass, hair and moss, bound together with spiders’ webs. It’s usually very well hidden in foliage, a few metres from the ground. Mrs Spinebill also incubates the eggs by herself. It’s only when the chicks hatch that her partner helps out with feeding. 😨
I swear no other bird has the same sense of purpose as a Spinebill. If you happen to be in their flight path they will divert just enough to avoid a collision. However, they pass so closely that you will not only hear the beat of their wings, but feel the wind they generate against your face. Nothing makes me feel more at one with nature than this experience. 💛
And what of their song, (which they produce even in flight)? It’s actually more sweet piping than singing, LISTEN HERE.
More information on Eastern Spinebills is available from the Australian Museum.
Sharing my garden with these energetic characters are many other small bird species, including THE BLUE WRENS.