Welcome to the News section of the iNSiGHT Ornithology website (
www.simoncherriman.com). This blog contains updates about various things I've been up to, interesting environmental issues and observations I make regularly while going about my day. It is designed to be fun AND educational, and inspire you about our wonderful natural world. Happy reading!

Monday, 12 August 2013

Barking up the Tree

Spot the bird's nest! In this photo it's not actually very hard to see, but if you were level with or below this tiny cup, it is almost invisible, exceptionally camouflaged. Who made it?

This remarkable piece of engineering is the work of a small, cryptic bird of the canopy - the Varied Sitella (Daphoenositta chrysoptera). But isn't Sitella a winery in the Perth region? Yes! But many human businesses take their name from something in nature, and it can be unfortunate when their original meaning is forgotten.

Varied Sitellas, so named because the species appears in several different colour forms, are widespread across Australia. They are seldom seen because flocks prefer to stay in the canopy, often only alerting themselves to humans with their distinctive call. The birds are also quite small (10cm), and are similar to tree-creepers in behaviour, spending their days clinging with ease to vertical trunks and high up branches, hopping up and down them and gleaning insects from the bark. Sitellas can easily move around without detection, foraging in the canopy in a cryptic manner.

The Sitella's ability to create such a well-disguised nest is one of the most astounding features of all Australian birds. They seek out a tiny fork in which to build and collect small flakes of bark, which are attached longitudinally to the stem with spiders' web, to make the nest appear like a broken off limb. Their attention to detail is just amazing! Peering up from the ground about 8m below, this nest is barely discernible from the other lumps and bumps on branches around it. Inside the nest a fine lining of plant down is added - in this case, the fawn-brown fuzz of Macrozamia has been used to create a soft bed for the 3 speckled eggs.

Another example of how birds never cease to amaze with their construction talent and effort when it comes to nesting.

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