Bellbird, Anthornis melanura



Bellbird, or Korimaku

A male bellbird

bellbird chorus

Few visitors if any could visit New Zealand forest and leave without enjoying our vocal Bellbird, and the famed “Dawn Chorus” or for that matter the evening Choral Festival is a particularly delightful event, with bellbirds and Tui (see previous post)taking starring roles. Actually it all gets a bit confusing, as Tui in particular are excellent mimics, and both have very similar phrases.

Primarily nectar feeders bellbird like many species in New Zealand are quiteomnivorous and as well as fruit will avidly target insects, both on the ground and on the wing.

Feeding on introduced fuchsia blossom

In particular they rely on “honeydew” a waste secretion of a small insect that lives under Dracophyllum longifoliumbark feeding on the sap. Extremely sweet waste sugars are excreted by the insect via a long thread and targeted by bellbirds in particular. In the winter when we have few flowering native species, and also in bad weather in the summer when honey flows will cease bellbird will really target this prolific food source.

Video of bellbird working honeydew on

D longifoliun

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A fewyears ago I started to occasionally hear a song phrase around our house and the village I couldn’t identify. Thought it was a , but couldn’t be sure. Over a couple of years it went from heard once a week or so to several times a week to several times a day, and eventually I was in the right place at the right time, and confirmed my suspicions that what I had been hearing was a .

local bellbird

Now what is really interesting is that I have NEVER heard this phrase on Ulva Island, and yet the flight to the Island is less than a mile, which would suggest that the two populations are quite separate.

Bellbirds love to sun themselves. I prefer to visit Ulva in the afternoon, when most visitors are generally leaving, and the afternoon birds are really starting to preform. The last part of our walk is down a very sunny west facing hill, which is full of D longifoliumtrees and the bellbirds indulge their favorite pastime of sunning and singing.

Bellbird will fluff up in the afternoon sun, and will generally sing their hearts out at the same time.

One of the more interesting habits of these quite delightful birds is to act as a “Robin Policeman” .

Stewart Island Robins are extremely territorial and so we often see males fighting. It’s not unusual to have a bellbird comebarrelingdown and break up the rucus. Really odd, and I have no idea why.

Peter Tait

Peter Tait

Peter Tait is a professional nature guide based at Stewart Island, New Zealand, and he works primarily on Ulva Island Open Sanctuary. Peter has been resident on the Island for over 40 years and was one time Forest Ranger in Charge of Stewart Island. Fishing followed forestry and was in turn followed by Talisker, a 17m charter yacht. He is qualified Skipper Deep Sea Fishing Vessel. In addition to guiding Peter and his wife Iris are hosts at Sails Ashore Lodge.

Peter Tait

Peter Tait

Peter Tait is a professional nature guide based at Stewart Island, New Zealand, and he works primarily on Ulva Island Open Sanctuary. Peter has been resident on the Island for over 40 years and was one time Forest Ranger in Charge of Stewart Island. Fishing followed forestry and was in turn followed by Talisker, a 17m charter yacht. He is qualified Skipper Deep Sea Fishing Vessel. In addition to guiding Peter and his wife Iris are hosts at Sails Ashore Lodge.

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Glenn Bartley

Peter, I think it’s really great to “listen in” on your local birds. Interesting that different populations of Sunbirds have different songs. They also seem to be real characters by acting as “peacemakers”!