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25

Mistletoebird

(Dicaeum hirundinaceum)
Alternate name(s): "Flowerpecker", "Dicaeum Swallow"
Aboriginal name(s): Race "hirundinaceum": "moonidjidong", "moonidjit" (WA)

Size: 10-11 cm
Weight: 7.5-11 g
Description     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Physical description

Click here for a physical description

Taxonomy, classification

See Mistletoebird at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range

Sightings

Click here for sighting information

Photos

Race "hirundinaceum"

ADULT

MALE

Close-up frontal view of a male Mistletoebird
[Eulah Creek, NSW, December 2012]

Frontal view of a male Mistletoebird in a flowering bottlebrush tree
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, February 2006]

Frontal view of a male Mistletoebird issuing its call (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Old Coach Road, Ensay South, East Gippsland, VIC, October 2014]

Close-up lateral view of a male Mistletoebird
[Eulah Creek, NSW, December 2012]

Lateral view of a male Mistletoebird, different posture
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, February 2006]

Lateral view of a male Mistletoebird
[Eulah Creek, NSW, December 2006]

Dorsal view of a male Mistletoebird
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, February 2006]

Here, for comparison, a male Mistletoebird with a much broader stripe across its breast
[Eulah Creek, NSW, February 2008]

Male Mistletoebird issuing its call (photo courtesy of C. Hayne)

FEMALE

Lateral view of a female Mistletoebird (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, April 2014]

View of a female Mistletoebird (against sunlight)
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, September 2006]

Female Mistletoebird hiding in dense foliage of a eucalypt tree for a good night's sleep
[Eulah Creek, NSW, 2006]

IMMATURE/JUVENILE

Full-frontal view of an immature Mistletoebird (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Ensay South, East Gippsland, VIC, December 2014]

Near-frontal view of an immature Mistletoebird (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Ensay South, East Gippsland, VIC, December 2014]

Breeding information

Breeding season: Oct - Jan Eggs: 1 - 3 Incubation period: 14 - 16 days Fledging age: 15+ days

Nest building: Female Incubation: Female Dependent care: Female & male

Nest

"bungobittah", "malunna" = nest [Aboriginal]

Type: Hanging basket Material: Soft plant threads and down Height above ground: 2 - 5 m

Close-up view of a Mistletoebird nest
[Narrabri, NSW, December 2016]

Female Mistletoebird in its nest
[Narrabri, NSW, December 2016]

Female Mistletoebird ducking into its nest
[Eulah Creek, NSW, February 2008]

Here she is, settled in
[Eulah Creek, NSW, February 2008]

Female Mistletoebird feeding a chick in the nest (photo courtesy of R. Plumtree)
[Doctors Flat Road, East Gippsland, VIC, December 2013]

Female Mistletoebird collecting nesting material (threads from a palm tree)
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2012]

Closer look at the female Mistletoebird carrying her load
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2012]

Here a view of a female Mistletoebird at the source of the material
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2010]

Eggs

"boyanga", "booyanga", "derinya", "dirandil", "koomura", "ngampu", "nooluk", "pateena" = Egg; "dirundirri" = eggs [Aboriginal]; "gawu" = eggs [gamilaraay]

Size: 17 x 11 mm Colour: White Shape: Tapered oval

View into a Mistletoebird's nest, showing three little white eggs inside
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2008]

Behaviour

Social behaviour: Territorial Mobility: Sedentary Elementary unit: Pair

The propagation of mistletoe plants depends entirely on the habits of Mistletoebirds. They are the only bird species with a stomach adapted to the digestion of the toxic fruit. The mistletoe seeds are in fact only partially digested and then shed with a sticky outer layer, with the seed still active. Mistletoebirds have the habit of rubbing the sticky excrement off their backs and leaving it attached to the perch.

Female Mistletoebird in the process of discharge (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, April 2014]

The sticky mess left behind by a Mistletoebird that could not quite hold on to a metal wire
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2008]

"Favourite" tree of Mistletoebirds - a box gum eucalypt (click here for more information on mistletoe)
[Mt. Kaputar NP, NSW, February 2009]

Food, Diet

Adults: Mistletoe fruit/nectar Dependents: ? Water intake: None?

The Mistletoebird is unique in that it feeds exclusively on the fruit of mistletoe. It is also the only bird (possibly with the exception of the Painted Honeyeater) that can digest these berries. The seeds inside the berries go through the birds' digestive system unharmed, which is how mistletoes are propagated.

Although partly obscured by a twip, one can still see this male Mistletoebird take a mature (red) mistletoe fruit; the plant has more unripe (green) fruit on it
[Eulah Creek, NSW, January 2016]

Flowers on a mistletoe branch; they are a major attraction to many nectar-eating birds, such as e.g. Singing Honeyeaters; this particular mistletoe is growing in a box gum (eucalypt) - note how the leaves look like eucalypt leaves
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2007]

Call(s)/Song

For this species we have recorded the following call(s)/song. The interpretation of their meaning is our own; comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome.

mistle_20161206.mp3 hirundinaceum
(NW NSW)
Contact calls © MD
mistle_20150718.mp3 hirundinaceum
(NW NSW)
Contact call (male?) © MD
mistle_20140129.mp3 hirundinaceum
(NW NSW)
Contact call (female?) © MD
mistle_20140108.mp3 hirundinaceum
(NW NSW)
Pair Q&A © MD
mistle_jg_20160806.mp3 hirundinaceum
(central WA)
Flying over © JG
mistle_20140521_3.mp3 hirundinaceum
(N NSW)
Various © MD
mistle_20141015.mp3 hirundinaceum
(NW NSW)
Various © MD
mistle_20141119.mp3 hirundinaceum
(NW NSW)
Various © MD
Click here for more recordings

These pages are largely based on our own observations and those of our contributors. The structure of these bird pages is explained HERE. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.

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If interested, please CLICK HERE. Credits to contributors are given HERE.