Saturday, 7 March 2015

Brown Thornbill

In East Gippsland the Brown Thornbill is easily our most common thornbill in a wide range of habitats. However it avoids open habitats such as grasslands where Yellow-rumped Thornbills tend to be the most common of the thornbills.
Browns perhaps seem more common because they occupy understory where we are more likely to see them compared with Striated and Yellow Thornbills which often operate higher up in the canopy where they are harder to see. Also we are more likely to notice the Browns because they have a large repertoire of calls, with many distinctive calls and some quite melodic and loud, compared with the more limited range of calls and quieter voices of other thornbills. That said, I am fairly sure Browns are more numerous and widespread than other species of thornbill in East Gippsland.
Browns are relatively easy to identify with buff scallops on the forehead, a dark red eye and blackish streaks on a grey throat and breast. 
Right click with mouse on photo to enlarge and use wheel to scroll through images.
Close up of Brown Thornbill showing the buff scalloped forehead, dark red eye and dark streaks on grey throat and breast.
They actively forage in dense understory for insects and other small prey either alone, in pairs or small family groups. In the non breeding season they can often be found in mixed species flocks of thornbills and other small insectivores such as robins, scrub-wrens and so on.
The following sequence of photos show a Brown Thornbill foraging in Hazel Pomaderris (aspera) under tall Mountain Ash (E regnans) near the top of Mt Elizabeth, a long extinct volcano which is now a Flora Reserve where rare plants are protected.

Following a morning of rain and overcast conditions for most of the day the Thornbills seemed to be enjoying the late afternoon sunny breaks when light beamed down through the Mountain Ash canopy to the understory far below.
I was there to check out road conditions to this magic place for a BirdLife East Gippsland Monday outing the following day.

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