Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Scarlet Honeyeater - brilliant red nomad

The Scarlet Honeyeater (Myzomela sanguinolenta), is a blossom nomad, with some populations sedentary in the north of their range, and others migrating south in the summer.
In recent years the number of Scarlet Honeyeaters in East Gippsland has increased enormously with a very large influx of birds following a major flowering event, when most eucalypt species across East Gippsland all flowered in one season. Even though eucalyptus flowering events have been far more moderate since then, good numbers of Scarlet Honeyeaters are still coming to East Gippsland each spring.
Note: enlarge photos with a left click of the mouse and then use the mouse wheel to scroll back and forth through the photos (can't view captions in this mode). For iPad tap on any photo and then select other images from thumbnails displayed at bottom of scene. To go back to post tap on X at top right hand corner of screen.  

Male Scarlet Honeyeater perched on a Wonga Vine tendril.
The female Scarlet Honeyeater has far more somber plumage.
The Scarlet Honeyeater at 10-11 cm long is our smallest honeyeater followed closely by the Black Honeyeater at 10-12 cm.
Despite the vivid red of the male, they can be surprisingly hard to find high in the forest canopy even when you can hear the loud, clear, distinctive and pleasant calls. Fortunately we have a resident pair in our garden at present and they spend a lot of time feeding in a callistemon heavy with yellow flowers and nectar, making them relatively easy to see and photograph.
The same tree also attracts Red and Little Wattlebirds, New Holland and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, Eastern Spinebills and large numbers of introduced honeybees. When the loud and aggressive wattlebirds move in, the smaller honeyeaters leave but they soon move back once the larger birds depart.
The Scarlet Honeyeaters are somewhat shy feeders, not often coming out to the open outer edges of the callistemon to feed. So capturing photos is not easy and much time and patience is required.
Female feeding on callistemon flower nectar.

The Female regularly interrupts her feeding to check that all is safe.
Male feeding in callistemon.
The male also often stops feeding checks safety.
The brilliant red extends all the way down the back.
After many frustrating attempts to obtain some photos of the feeding pair, the male took a break out in the open on a Wonga Vine tendril to have a preen of his head feathers giving an opportunity for some close up portraits against moderately strong backlight.

Ruffled head feathers – the feathers around the head and neck were being preened during this session.
The male departing – is he poking his tongue at the photographer, a rude gesture in response to being harassed while feeding? 

No comments:

Post a Comment