|Australian Bush Birds|
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|Eastern Spinebill - Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris|
|Eastern Spinebill. This is a male with glossy black crown; females have a satin grey crown. This Tasmanian bird is reported to be subspecies dubius and to be browner than mainland spinebills.|
The Eastern Spinebill - Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris - is a small, active, honeyeater with a long, curved, pointed beak for probing into tubular flowers for nectar. The tongue is long and almost tubular tipped with short serrations for licking. They also take insects, mainly to feed their young, but adults rely almost entirely on nectar for food. Length 15 to 16 centimetres.
Crown and side of the face are glossy black to below the eye; collar is russet grading to grey-brown on the back; rump is grey. Throat and breast white, flanked by broad black crescents; the centre of the throat has a deep chestnut-brown patch. Under parts are tawny-rufous. Wings and tail are glossy black, outer tail feathers prominently edged with white. Eye is crimson-red, bill, legs and feet black. Females are similar to males but have a sating rey crown instead of a black crown
Immature birds are olive-brown above, plain yellow-buff below. The throat is cream grading to a tawny belly without the adult's black markings. Eye is brown.
Lives in forest, woodlands, heathlands, flowering shrubs, thickets and gardens. Feeds alone or in loose groups foraging in shrubs in the forest under story and through taller heaths, mostly within a metre or two of the ground. They flutter about perching to probe a flower before dashing to the next flowering shrub in swooping undulations with a noisy whirr-whirr and tail flashing white. Reported to hover like a hummingbird.
Distributed in coastal south-east Australia from about Maryborough/Fraser Island south to Victoria, Tasmania (rare on Bass Strait Islands); this distribution extends well inland in south-east Queensland and north-east New South Wales. Another subspecies is found around the Mt Lofty Ranges and Kangaroo Island. There is another distribution in the Queensland highlands above 500 metres elevation inland from the coast between Cooktown in the north to Eungella Nat Pk north of Mackay.
Four subspecies are recognised:
¶ dubius - in Tasmania and possibly on Bass Strait Islands; these birds are browner in colour.
¶ tenuirostris - in South-east Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.
¶ cairnsensis - a paler version found in the Queensland highlands.
¶ halmaturinus - Mt Lofty Ranges and Kangaroo Island.
Breeding takes place from August to March with a peak from October to January. The male defends a small territory with song-flights while the female builds the nest and incbuates the eggs; the male may bring nesting material and may occasionally help with incubation. The male assists with feeding the young. The nest is a cup of grass and plant fibre, lined with feathers or hair, attached to twigs at the rim,placed 1 to 5 metres above the ground in a tree or bushy shrub. Two or three eggs are laid; buff or buff-pink with chestnut or red-brown spots towards the larger end; oval, about 17 by 13 millimetres. Incubation about 14 days, mainly by female.
Similar species: Crescent Honeyeater, Tawny-crowned Honeyeater.
¶ Genus Acanthorhynchus is in Family Meliphagidae the large family containing Honeyeaters, Spinebills, Wattlebirds, Miners, Chats and Friarbirds.