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The ‘Diamond Sparrow’

When I’m asked to nominate my favorite Australian bird, there are plenty of obvious choices. After all, Australia is renowned for its amaz- ing, colorful and unique avifauna. Regent Bowerbird, Rainbow Lorikeet, Gouldian Finch and South- ern Cassowary are just a few of my favorites which are also high on the wish lists of most visiting birders. There is a small bird though, and I am always surprised it’s not on these wanted lists; the delicate and beautiful Spotted Pardalote, perhaps my favorite Australian bird. I still remember my rst encounter with a pardalote in country New South Wales. I was only about seven or eight, and was climbing an old eucalypt tree in our backyard. I noticed a bird I didn’t recognize, a little smaller than a sparrow, forag- ing in the nearby foliage. I ran inside to consult the font of all bird knowl- edge, my grandfather, describing the bird as I’d seen it with a yellow breast and eyebrow, a black head and wings with white markings. “Sounds like a Diamond Sparrow” he said, which sent me diving for my bird book. I couldn’t nd a ‘Diamond Sparrow’, but I did nd the bird I’d seen, a Striated Pardalote. I was excited to see a new bird, but what really captivated me was the neighboring illustration. It was a beautiful bird, not unlike the Striated Pardalote, but its blue- black wings and head were delicately patterned with small white spots, it had an extensive yellow throat and breast and nally, a bright ery red rump. The bird was a Spotted Pardalote, and when I saw the ‘other names’ section, realized I’d found my grandfather’s ‘Diamond Sparrow’, apparently an old colloquial name for this species. How long would it be before I got to see this little beauty? I had to wait a while, but I would

  • nd it eventually. The Spotted

Pardalote is common in the forests of eastern and southern Australia, and in these habitats it tends to move around in pairs or small groups, high in the canopy. In these tall eucalypt forests, it is often dicult to see, but their presence is advertised by a soft, persistent three note whistle. The rst note has a clear piping quality, followed by a higher double-noted nale, accurately described as ‘sleep, dee- dee’ in the Pizzey and Knight eld guide. Once I learnt the call I actually found the birds often, but rarely saw them well. If you have done our Eastern Australia tour, you will have birded the mallee of central New South

See the Spotted Pardalote on the East- ern Australia tour. The next scheduled tour is 12 – 30 October 2011

Nick Leseberg talks about an underappreciated Aussie gem

Wales. Mallee woodland is charac- terized by relatively short eucalypt trees, often with a relatively open understorey on sandy soil. There are several birds found almost exclu- sively in this habitat, and one of these is the inland subspecies of the Spotted Pardalote, the ‘Yellow- rumped Pardalote’. In 1999 I was birding some mallee at Round Hill in central New South Wales, when I was lucky enough to come across one of these birds. The advantage was that with such a low canopy – usually only a few meters in the mallee – I was nally able to get fantastic views of this beautiful little bird. I could see clearly the beautiful golden throat and breast, the ery red and yellow rump, and the exquisite white spots on the blue- black cap and wings. With these crippling views, it immediately became one of my favorite birds, and I truly understood why my grandfather knew it as the ‘Diamond Sparrow’.




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