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Out of its usual range

November 18, 2018

The discovery of something that you have not seen before is cause for great excitement. Particularly when you are at home and think that you have probably seen all the birds, for example, that there are to be seen in the district. So excitement there was when a reported red, black and white bird (not a Robin) was observed in the uppermost branches of a local Melaleuca. And any unknown bird with striking colouration, i.e. red, is doubly exciting. On colours alone we guessed that it may have been a Mistletoebird.  But to be sure we had to call in technology in the form of a camera with a telephoto lens and a bird identification app on our iPads, in our case Pizzey and Knight. We also had to hope the bird was hanging around so that we could get another look at it.

The beak shape (pictured above) pointed us in the Honeyeater direction and the red coloured head narrowed it down to two suspects – the Red-headed Honeyeater, which is distributed along the northern coastline of Australia and unheard of in this area, or the Scarlet Honeyeater, distributed along the eastern seaboard and still uncommon here. Either way it was a bird neither of us had seen before (a ‘lifer’ in twitching terms) and outside its usual range. Geoff (Murrindindi Birdwatchers) and Macwake both confirmed the bird to be a male Scarlet Honeyeater (Myzomela sanguinolenta), a bird Macwake had documented in a blog this time last year.

The Scarlet Honeyeater is a seasonal migrant spending most of the year along the east coast between Sydney and Cooktown but migrating less commonly south of Sydney during summer. The scientific name is derived from the Greek muzao for suck, meli for honey and the Latin sanguinolentus meaning blood-red, i.e. a blood-red honeysucker, which is entirely appropriate given its food source is mainly nectar.

Adding a bird to the list is great, especially one so striking.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Lesley Dalziel permalink
    November 18, 2018 8:18 am

    Very exciting. Is it moving into our area now? We had them all over Seymour, incl the Bushland Park last season. Haven’t seen one yet, but always looking in trees with blossom.

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