Balancing act

Like many small woodland birds, Striated Thornbills can be incredibly acrobatic in their search for food.

The individual pictured below was spotted gleaning insects from the foliage of White Box Eucalyptus albens. In the first three images you may just be able to make out, near the thornbill’s tarsi, some white web-like material. This is a remnant of a psyllid casing.

Thornbills are one of a host of woodland insectivores that forage assiduously on this material, which is known as lerp. Lerp is a crystalline honeydew that psyllid insects produce in abundance throughout eucalypt woodlands and forests. The sugary casing acts as a form of protection for the soft-bodied pysllids, however, there is some complexity going on here with the casing a clear attractor for avian foragers.

Two other insectivores were also about in the company of the thornbills, an immature Golden Whistler (note the rich brown in the secondary flight feathers) and a splendid male Rose Robin. Both of these are cool-season migrants that will move south to breed in a week or two, although a few Golden Whistlers do breed locally in some years.

ST1

Striated Thornbill gleaning insects from White Box foliage, Muckleford State Forest, 8th August 2021

ST2

II

ST3

III

RR1

Rose Robin (male)

GW1

Golden Whistler

GW2

II

2 responses to “Balancing act

  1. Heather Gilbert

    Amazing pics of the Thornbill. A great deal of patience went into those I think. The Rose Robin and young Golden Whistler are excellent also. If one can’t be there it is great to see these natural photos.
    Thanks Geoff.
    Heather Gilbert

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