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Habitat Ecology Information

What’s Lurking In Your Backyard? – #37 Eastern Spinebill

This series looks at the variety of fauna that may be found in the suburban backyard or local reserve and the diversity may be surprising to some people. The obvious fauna are the vast array of birds that are readily seen by day and some by night, but there are numerous species that are nocturnal. Some of these nocturnal species people are familiar with as they tramp across the roof at night with what sounds like hobnail boots on, or they hear fighting in the backyard over food and territory. Others are cryptic and may only be seen infrequently when they enter the house for warmth and shelter. Each week or so I will highlight a different species that may be found in and around Melbourne’s  backyards, parks and reserves, some may be familiar others less so.

#37 Eastern Spinebill

(Acanthorynchus tenuirostris)

This small agile little bird can be found flitting around the garden attending the various flowering plants looking for a feed. They are quite distinctive with their contrasting colours and long curved beak. The male is slightly more distinctive with its markings which consist of a grey-black crown which extends down either side of the breast contrasts the white throat and breast. Their is a patch of rufous feathers in the centre of the throat. The lower back and wings are a dark grey with the underside being buff in colour with the outer tail being white. This white outer tail being visible during flight.

During visits to our backyard, they can be found flitting from flower to flower where they will either perch or hover seeking the sweet nectar from the flower and then with almost lighting speed they will head off to larger trees. Its tubular curved beak is particularly suited to extracting nectar from long tubular flowers such as Kangaroo Paws, Native Heath, Grevilleas and other plants with tubular flowers. As well as nectar the Eastern Spinebill will also feed on small insects which it will catch on the wing during its erratic, acrobatic flight.

Breeding occurs between August and January with a nest being constructed by the female. The nest is made from a variety of materials including bark, grass and twigs with spider webs and hair being utilised to line and bind the nest together. Nest are usually located in fork in the lower part of a tree or shrub. Clutch size is usually two and both parents feed the young but only the female incubates the chicks.

The habitat for this species includes heathland, forest and woodland with their range extending along the east coast of Australia from Cooktown in Queensland to Flinders Ranges in South Australia.

Conservation Status in Victoria: “Secure”

Habitat Ecology 2021


Birdlife Australia:

Birds In The Backyard: