Monday, July 1, 2013

P is for PARDALOTE (running late...sorry EC)

Pardalotes or peep-wrens are a family, Pardalotidae, of very small brightly coloured birds native to Australia, with short tails, strong legs, and stubby blunt beaks.  The name derives from a Greek word meaning "spotted".  The family once contained several other species now split into the family Acanthizidae.

Pardalotes spend most of their time high in the outer foliage of trees, feeding on insects, spiders, and above all lerps (a type of sap sucking insect).  Their role in controlling lerp infestations in the eucalyptus forests of Australia may be significant.  They generally live in pairs or small family groups but sometimes come together into flocks after breeding.

Pardalotes are seasonal breeders in temperate areas of Australia but may breed year round in warmer areas.  They are monogamous breeders, and both partners share nest construction, incubation and chick rearing duties.  All four species nest in deep horizontal tunnels drilled into banks of earth.

The pardalotes consist of four species contained in a single genus, Pardalotus:  Spotted Pardalote; Forty-spotted Pardalote; Red-browed Pardalote and Striated Pardalote.   They are small, compact birds that range in size from 8.5-12 cm (3.3-4.7 in) in length.  The Spotted and Striated Pardalotes conform to Bergman's rule and are larger in the south than they are in the north.  The males and females are the same size as each other, but there are some differences in the plumage of some species.  They have short, square-tipped tails and relatively short rounded wings (which are longer in the more dispersive species).  The bill is short, deep and robust, but lacks the rictal bristles that surround the bills of many other insectivorous birds.

The pardalotes are endemic to Australia.  The Forty-spotted has the most restricted distribution of the four species, being endemic to Tasmania; in contrast the most widespread species is the Striated Pardalote found throughout Australia, only absent from some of the driest areas of the inland central and western deserts.  The Red-browed Pardalote is widespread in the north and west of Australia, whereas the Spotted Pardalote is found closer to the coast in southern and eastern Australia.

The family are eucalyptus forest specialists.  While they may occur in woodlands and forests dominated by other tree types, these are marginal habitats for the family and are seldom used.  Pardalotes occupy a wide range of eucalypt habitats, from tall forests with a canopy over 30 m high to low mallee woodlands with a canopy of just 3 m.

Pardalotes are almost exclusively insectivores  They will occasionally consume some plant materials including seeds, and there has been an observation of one Striated Pardalote beating and then eating a lizard.  They feed singly or in pairs during the breeding season but have been recorded as joining mixed-species feeding flocks in the winter months,  The majority of foraging occurs on eucalypts, with other trees being used much less frequently, and amont the eucalypts trees from the subgenus Symphyomyrtus are preferred. Pardalotes forage by gleaning insects from the foliage, as opposed to sallying and catching insects in the air  While pardalotes may consume a number of different types of insects, lerps, a honeydew casing exuded by insects of the family Psyllidae, for the major component of their diet and the one to which they are adapted to.  These lerps are also highly sought after by the larger honeyeaters, which aggressively defend the resource  A study of pardalotes in Australia estimated that 5% of a pardalote's day is spent evading honeyeater attacks.

I was wondering why I didn't remember even seeing a pardalote of any king and on investigation it would seen they are in our south-west forest areas and also in the northern areas.  Obviously not a bird common to the metropolitan area.  I hope that has not been too repetitive but I did promise to feature the pardalote so have included all the information I could find that seemed interesting.


  1. Thank you so much. They are charming little birds and some spotted pardalotes have drilled holes in our hanging baskets to make their nests. Perhaps not as 'dramatic' as some of our birds, but I love them. They are too quick for my camera though.

  2. I am so sorry we don't have them here in our suburbs as I so liked the appearance of them. We had doves nesting in a couple of our hanging baskets years ago but then doves tend to be lazy nesters I think.
    So glad you liked the pardalote story. Have you any suggestions for birds from here on in? T-Z. Am thinking of our own black swan for the "S" post.
    Knowing your love of birds I thoufht you would be interested to know that down by the seafront at Cottesloe the pines have all been shedding their seeds (you know the floaty type of seed; apparently they do it every 7 years) and those seeds have been landing all over the place including the busy road. Heard on the radio there have been dozens of galahs, corellas and black cockatoes taking advantage of the feast and to date all drivers havr been slowing down for them (including a very busy warm past weekend) so fingers crossed there will be no casualities.

  3. 8 years ago California, informed by environmentalists, imported a kind of wasp from Australia to eat our eucalyptus lerps. Now we have lots of lerps and wasps. Would have preferred Pardalotes. I read somewhere that Australian children consume the sugary lerp nests as candy. I hope my state doesn't try to import them too!

  4. Haha Geo!!! A bit like our cane toads that are now spreading across the continent and killing our native animals. Yes, pardalotes would have been a much better bet and so pretty with it. Perhaps a word in the ear of the environmentalists???
    You won't want our Aussie kids then....maybe the children they meant were the aboriginal children. The aboriginals ate a lot of 'bush tucker' and many in the outback still do.
    Nice to have you drop in again and thanks for your comment.

    1. P.S. You know Geo if they'd not imported our eucalypts then no lerps and no wasps either. Figures eh?

  5. They're such cute little birds.
    I don't think I've ever seen any.
    Probably there are too many magpies around here.

    1. We definitely don't have them in the suburbs of Perth so perhaps they don't visit the Adelaide burbs either. Ours appear to be more in our southwest forests. EC has them in her garden in Canberra. Isn't she lucky?

  6. Replies
    1. Yes they certainly are just that...sweet. We have a honey eater that is rather special ... the New Holland honeyeater which has pretty colouring. Not a lot down here near the coast but often see them in our daughter's garden.