Tags: Native wildlife. Rufous Whistler. Birds. Australian. Queensland. Moreton Bay. Bribie Island.
Rufous Whistlers are very common birds residing in wooded areas and wallum heathland on Bribie Island and local areas. There are several species of whistlers in Australia but only two, the Rufous and the Golden Whistlers are found here. Rufous Whistlers, the most common of the whistlers in Australia are small birds 16-17 cm in length and weighing only 18-32 g. Males and females are different in appearance.
Males have large heads, rufous breasts with white throats underlined by a black band and are a brownish colour above. This plumage is not acquired by males until about 3 years old. Males are not likely to be confused with any other birds because of their unique plumage. Females and immature birds are also brownish above but their underparts are a light buff with black streaks. Tails of both sexes are almost as long as their bodies.
Their most striking feature is the variety of melodious, complex calls that ring through the bush on a regular basis, particularly during spring and early summer. Loud noises are often the trigger for the whistlers to commence calling. They are indeed one of Australia’s most outstanding songbirds.
Throughout Australia where conditions are right in woodlands, arid inland areas where there are trees, and in parks and gardens close to nature reserves are places where they are most likely to be seen. They are mainly sedentary but there is some movement in the south of Australia to the north in autumn and back south during summer. Wet areas such as rainforests are usually avoided.
They are also found in New Caledonia. Food is mainly insects with some seeds, a little fruit, and vegetation. They forage systematically alone or in pairs in the canopies of high trees or shrubs. Occasionally they hover in search of food. They do not feed on the ground and are rarely if ever seen there.
Before breeding commences usually from Sept- Feb the young from the previous brood are driven away to fend for themselves. Rufous fantails are monogamous and the males each year begin their courting rituals with what is called the “Bob and Bow”. These rituals are performed for the females when the males bob and bow while continually whistling.
Females select the nest sites which are usually in the forks of trees with clumps of leaves hiding the nests if possible. Flimsy, untidy nests are built by the females alone. These nests are between 1-8 m high but are usually on the lower end of the scale and are constructed with twigs and forest materials and bound together with cobwebs.
They are so thin that in most cases the eggs can be seen through the bottom of the nest. Males step in to help with the incubation of 2-4 freckled olive eggs. After 14-15 days the eggs hatch and the males help with the rearing of the young. Two broods may be produced each year.
In 1801 Rufous Fantails came to the attention of John Latham and were studied from samples sent from Australia to his premises in England. Because the nests are built reasonably close to the ground the eggs and babies are often prey to reptiles, other birds and feral and domestic cats.
Land clearing and development take away much of their habitat and bushfires are a danger during the summer months. Even so, their conservation status is still considered secure. With bushfires raging throughout much of Australia at the time of writing it is worrying to think about the small birds trapped in their nests and adult birds and animals not able to escape the blaze in time.
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