Australian Bush Birds
Bell Miner  -  Manorina melanophrys
bell Miner
The Bell Miner (sometimes called the Bellbird) lives in eucalyptus forests and is associated with Bell Miner Associated Dieback of eucalyptus trees. (Toonumbar National Park, NSW)
map map Bell Miner - Manorina melanophrys - upper parts from head to rump are plain dark olive-green, darkest on the crown. Wings and tail are plain browner-grey. Under parts uniformly pale green. Eye mid-brown to black. Line over eye is dusky black, lores light yellow-green with black near bill; small patch of bare red or orange-red skin behind and under the eye. Bill and feet yellow. Broad black-brown line extension from bill. 18 to 19 centimetres. Male and female similar, male slightly larger.

In juveniles the mark behind the eye is olive, becoming orange.

Lives in colonies on edge and in gullies of wet and dry sclerophyll forest, usually near water. Distributed along the east coast and coastal scarp of the Great Dividing Range from south-east Queensland (about Gympie), south to near Melbourne in Victoria.

The distinctive call is a continual single-note, metallic, bell-like tinkling, far-carrying as a contact call between colony members; it varies in pitch between individuals. The call is made in turn by each bird in a colony all day long and all year-round.

Each colony occupies up to two hectares and comprises a number of separate groups, each with its own feeding range within the colony's territory. Each group is usually a mated pair plus up to eight additional members. Colonies are sedentary, remaining in the same densely shrubby gullies in wet eucalyptus forests for many years in south-eastern Australia. Individual hop and flutter about at mid-levels in the bush down into the low level shrubbery and up into the lower canopy; they live mainly on lerps which are a protective sugary/starchy coating produced by sap-sucking insects called psyllids. Miners remove the lerp with their tongue leaving the psyllids alive to produce another lerp.

Bell Miners protect psyllids and lerps in their territory by mobbing and driving away insect eating birds and other honeyeaters which would eat the psyllid with the lerp. Protected by miners, psyllids become too numerous for the eucalyptus trees which deteriorate and will eventually die in a process known as Bell Miner Associated Dieback (BMAD). Killing large number of Bell Miners in infected areas clears the way for other bird species to move in and eat the psyllids allowing the trees to recover.

Bell Miner - page 2
Breeding takes place mainly from July to February, also April to June. The nest is a loosely woven cup of thin twigs, grasses and shredded bark lined with rootlets and occasionally downy seed. The nest is bound to branches with cobweb, suspended by the rim, sometimes close to the ground, but normally 4 to 5 metres high in sapling or tree. Moss, lichen, leaves, insect egg cases or cocoons are often attached to the outside. The female builds the nest, often escorted by the male while she builds.

Two (sometimes one or three) eggs are laid; pale pink spotted with chestnut, red or purple-brown; oval; about 24 by 16 millimetres. Incubated for about 15 days by the female who broods the young. Other members of the group pay close attention to the nesting procedure and, after the young hatch, join in feeding nestlings and taking away faecal sacs. When fledged, the young may return to the nest to sleep at night; while remaining near the nest they are fed by all group member until they are about four weeks old.

Intruders are distracted by adults waving their wings, calling harshly then dropping suddenly into low undergrowth.