Spotting features

One of the tricks with bird identification is not to over complicate matters. Rather than attempting to observe all of the characteristics of a particular species, it’s better to focus the features that stand-out, as well as taking note of shape, size and habit.

Eastern Silveryes are one of those tricky LBJs (Little Brown Jobs) – small, quick and often furtive as they search  for insects amongst the foliage. Their overall colouration is similar to many other birds – olive-green on the upper parts and pale underneath. One feature stands out though – a narrow ring of white feathers surrounding the eye. No other local species has this feature.


Eastern Silvereye., Newstead, 25th June 2014.

There are lots of different genera of honeyeaters – they are a diverse group of almost exclusively Australian birds. Species in the Melithreptus group have olive-green upperparts, with black or brown heads. Locally we have Brown-headed, Black-chinned and the White-naped Honeyeater (pictured below). They all possess a crescent of bare skin above or around the eye, this is orange-red in the White-naped.


White-naped Honeyeater with morsel, Newstead, 25th June 2014.

Thornbills have been mentioned a number of times recently – rump colour is a helpful spotting character for differentiating some species, such as the Yellow-rumped Thornbill, in flight. I’ve just finished reading a terrific article by Sean Dooley on thornbill identification in the latest edition (June 2014) of Australian Birdlife … well worth subscribing if you haven’t already.


Yellow-rumped Thornbill on the perch.

In some cases, such as this female Golden Whistler below, it’s the almost complete absence of distinctive markings or colour that gives the game away. The shape of the head, whistlers are also known colloquially as ‘thickheads’, narrows the choice to one of two local species, Rufous or Golden, but non-male Rufous Whistlers have streaks on the throat … QED.


Female Golden Whistler – a close up reveals delicate barring on the chin and throat.

One response to “Spotting features

  1. I Love your work Geoff, I am looking forward to the day when I can equal you.

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