The highlight of a short excursion this morning to the Rise and Shine was observing a flock of Varied Sittellas foraging for insects.
These small, bark feeding specialists are handsome birds, especially when you see the splash of orange across their extended wings. I’ve watched them feeding many times but was fascinated to see a couple of the birds repeatedly flicking both wings simultaneously to disturb insects. This technique is commonly used by a number of insectivorous species – the Grey Fantail and Willie Wagtail come immediately to mind, but is not commonly seen with sittellas.
According to Joseph and Olsen (2011) … The birds zig-zag actively up and down the trunk and along branches with a rocking horse motion, probing and levering the bark with their upturned bills and occasionally flickering one wing, probably to flush cryptic prey.
It worked very effectively this morning as the birds were having some success in dislodging insects. I’d be interested to hear from any folks who have observed this behaviour in Varied Sittellas.
Reference: Stray Feathers – Reflections on the Structure, Behaviour and Evolution of Birds by Leo Joseph and Penny Olsen, CSIRO Publishing (2011).