Backyard Buddies
Crested Bellbird

Photo: Peter Jacobs

Crested Bellbird

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Next time you go for a walk near some low shrubs and hear something chuckling 'chuck-a-chuck-chuck' in the grass, it might be the Crested Bellbird.

The Crested Bellbird is found throughout most of Australia near acacia shrub lands, eucalypt woodlands, spinifex and saltbush plains.

The grey-brown and buff colouring of the Crested Bellbird means they are more often heard than seen. They blend easily into their surroundings and have the unique ability to throw their call so it sounds like it's coming from somewhere else.

The call of the Crested Bellbird varies from 'dick dick the devil', 'pan-pan-pallella', or 'did-did did-did-dit'. When not calling, the Crested Bellbird spends most of its time foraging on the ground, quietly chuckling as it searches for its favourite prey amongst grass, stones and leaf litter.

Crested Bellbirds forage on the ground or in low shrubs to feed on invertebrates and seeds.

Crested Bellbirds breed from August until December or January each year in regions with regular winter rainfall. At other times of year, look out for them feeding in mixed flocks with Chestnut-rumped Thornbills and Red-capped Robins.

In drier areas, Crested Bellbirds breed after heavy rains. They build their cup-shaped nests from bark, twigs, grass and leaves placed in a hollow stump, in a vertical fork or in the hanging bark of a tree, about 1-3 metres above the ground. They usually lay one to four eggs which hatch in 16 days.

These use something very curious to decorate their nests - live, hairy caterpillars. A Crested Bellbird grabs a hairy caterpillar, squeezes it around the middle to make it semi-immobile and then attaches it to the rim of its nest.

This caterpillar decorating usually starts while there are eggs in the nest and continues until the young have hatched. The young apparently don't eat the caterpillars during the 12 days they spend being looked after in the nest. It has been suggested that these caterpillars may be a kind of defence for the nest.

TIP

Plant an understory of local native shrubs in your garden. Many small birds, such as the Crested Bellbird, benefit from having an understory to hide in from bigger birds.

DID YOU KNOW?

How do you tell a male Crested Bellbird from a female Crested Bellbird? Apart from the crest, you can have a look at the eyes. The male has bright orange eyes whereas the female has red-brown eyes.

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”Birds, bugs, lizards and penguins are my favourite Backyard Buddies – I like to find, watch and learn about what they do and what I can do to help them.“

Gus – 11 year old Backyard Buddy, NSW

Photo: OEH