The Eastern Spinebill: Amazing Feeding Behaviour of the Eastern Spinebill

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The eastern spinebill is a species of honeyeater, a group of birds that feed mainly on nectar from flowers. It is found in south-eastern Australia, from Queensland to South Australia, as well as Tasmania. It is also a common visitor to gardens and parks in urban areas, such as Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Hobart1

The eastern spinebill is a small bird, measuring about 15 cm in length. It has a long, thin, down-curved black bill that is adapted for probing deep into flowers. It has a black head, white throat with a chestnut patch, and red eyes. The male has a black cap and mask, while the female has a grey cap and mask. The body is grey-brown above and pale cinnamon below. The tail is dark with white tips on the sides. The juvenile is similar to the female, but duller and paler12

An interesting fact about the eastern spinebill is that it can hover in the air like a hummingbird, which is rare among honeyeaters. It uses this skill to feed on nectar from tubular flowers that are too long for its bill to reach. It can also fly backwards and sideways, making it very agile and maneuverable.

The eastern spinebill is an active and fast bird, darting around between flowering trees and shrubs in wetter forested areas, as well as heathlands and woodlands. It feeds mainly on nectar from a variety of plants, such as grevilleas, banksias, eucalypts, and correas. It also eats insects and spiders, which it catches in the air or picks from the foliage12

The eastern spinebill has a loud and repetitive piping whistle, which sounds like “chip-chip-chip”. It also makes a softer “tseep” call when in contact with other birds. It is a territorial and solitary bird, except during the breeding season, when it forms monogamous pairs. It builds a small cup-shaped nest of bark, grass, and spider webs, lined with feathers and fur, in a fork of a tree or shrub. It lays two or three white eggs with brown spots, which are incubated by both parents. The chicks are fed by both parents and fledge after about two weeks12

The eastern spinebill is a beautiful and fascinating bird that can be easily observed in many parts of south-eastern Australia. It is not threatened by habitat loss or fragmentation, and is considered to be of least concern by the IUCN1

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