Nature News: Dry times for the Diamond Firetail
Posted on 25 February, 2016 by Connecting Country
Connecting Country, in partnership with the Midland Express, has launched its new monthly ‘Nature News’ feature. Look out for these these articles by local naturalists appearing in the Midland Express on the first Tuesday of the month (or thereabouts). For the February edition, Tanya Loos shared her experiences about one of our local feathered friends; the Diamond Firetail. This article is reprinted below. Keep an eye out in the next one or two editions of the Midland Express for an article on local snakes by Bernard Slattery.
Of relevance to the article below, at the Saturday evening forum of our feathered five festival (19-20 March 2016), Andrew Bennett will be discussing his research on how woodland birds are responding to climatic change and Phil Ingamells will share some tips from the experts on how we all can help. Click here for more information on the festival and to secure your spot for the talks.
Dry Times for the Diamond Firetail. By Tanya Loos.
As our gardens and paddocks wilt in the ongoing dry, access to water for fauna becomes ever more important. One visitor to the bird bath that is sure to delight the senses is the Diamond Firetail.
A small bird of great beauty, the Diamond Firetail sports a neat black and grey suit with white spots, set off by a dashing crimson rump and a coral-coloured bill and eye ring. Here in the Mount Alexander region we are fortunate to have small numbers of this rare bird in the local bushlands.
Diamond Firetails feed on seeds of both grasses and native trees such as she-oak. One day at the Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve south of Newstead, I chanced upon a lone Diamond Firetail foraging with a distinctive series of moves. He trundled along the ground, then leapt up to a grass seed head, grabbed it firmly in his bill, then stood on the grass head to eat the seeds. The process was repeated at the next grass tussock.
Living on seeds alone is thirsty work, and Diamond Firetails need a safe source of water in their bushland or woodland habitat. In dry times, one way to help firetails and other birds is through the provision of a bird bath or two. Bird baths are a wonderful way to enjoy your local birds, but do bear in mind they require daily maintenance to ensure the water is clean, and always topped up.
It is too hot and dry for breeding at the moment, but after the rains return and seeding grasses are available, nesting will occur anytime from August. To attract the female, the male Diamond Firetail selects a long piece of grass with a seed head, and holds it tightly in his bill. He then fluffs his spotted flank feathers and sings as he bobs up and down on the perch.
If the female approves, they will mate in the privacy of the nest. The nest is a domed affair, of grasses, seed heads and roots, and may be found in a mistletoe clump or a thick shrub such as Hedge Wattle. A few years ago, I observed a Diamond Firetail nest built amongst the large sticks of the base of a Wedge-tailed Eagle nest!
The Diamond Firetail is less common than it once was, largely due to the removal of suitable habitat. Happily small populations are still being reported in areas such as Muckleford, Guildford, Fryerstown and Sedgwick. If you have Diamond Firetails visiting your garden, or you see some out in the bush, we would love to hear from you!