Mistletoebird

Dicaeum hirundinaceum TAXONOMY

Motacilla hirundinaceum Shaw and Nodder, 1792, New Holland (Australia). Four subspecies.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Australian flowerpecker, Australian flower swallow, mistletoe flowerpecker; French: Dicée hirondelle; German: Rotsteiss-Mistelfresser; Spanish: Pica Flor del Muérdago.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

3.7-4.3 in (9.5-11 cm); 0.28-0.35 oz (8-10 g). Blue-black up-perparts with red throat, breast, and vents. White belly with black patch.

DISTRIBUTION

D. h. fulgidum: Tanimbar Islands; D. h. hirundinaceum: Australia (except Tasmania); D. h. ignicolle: Aru Island; D. h. keiense: Kai, Tayundu, and Watubele.

HABITAT

Forests, woodlands, savanna, scrub, and mangroves.

BEHAVIOR

Utters characteristic two- or three-note calls, various flight notes, and song; is also a remarkable vocal mimic of many other birds. Keeps upright on perch. Restless, fast flier that is nomadic in search of fruiting mistletoes. When searching for food, tends to flick its wings, moving rapidly among upper branches of trees; also hawks for insects.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Heavily dependent on mistletoes; also feeds on insects, spiders, fruits, nectar, and pollen.

Dicaeum hirundinaceum

I Resident

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Maintains territories by chasing intruders and singing from high perches. Courtship involves male chasing female in flight, landing next to her, and fanning tail. Three or four white eggs are laid in purse-shaped nest with slit entrance at the side. Female alone incubates for 12 days; both sexes then feed young in nest for two weeks. Breeding season tied to fruiting period of mistletoes, September-April.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS Spreads mistletoes. ♦

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