Ding Dong, Crested Bellbird Visiting
Next time you go for a walk near some low shrubs and hear something chuckling ‘chuck-a-chuck-chuck’ in the grass, don’t be worried.
Have a look around and see if you can spot the illusive trickster, the Crested Bellbird. This bird loves Australia’s arid and semi-arid regions.
The Crested Bellbird is often heard but not seen. This is because of its grey-brown and buff colouring which blends into its surroundings and because of its amazing ability to throw its call so that it sounds like it’s coming from somewhere else, just like a ventriloquist!
If you hear the Crested Bellbird going ‘dick dick the devil’, ‘pan-pan-pallella’, or did-did did-did-dit, don’t be fooled as to where it’s coming from. Look for the caller in a tree or in amongst low growing shrubs.
When not calling, the Crested Bellbird spends most of its time foraging on the ground, quietly chuckling as it walks and searches for its favourite prey amongst grass, stones and leaf litter.
Crested Bellbirds love to nibble on insects such as grasshoppers, and some seeds. Look out for them in acacia shrublands, eucalypt woodlands, spinifex and saltbush plains or dunes.
If you’re lucky enough to spot him, check out the punk-inspired haircut of the male Crested Bellbird - his crest is black and can lay flat or stand up straight like a mohawk.
Crested Bellbirds are laying eggs and raising chicks right now - they breed from August until December or January each year in regions with regular winter rainfall. During breeding season you may see them on their own enjoying some private time, or in pairs. 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. Look out for their nests of bark, twigs 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.
Bellbirds build a cup-shaped nest, fashioned from strips of bark, twigs and leaves and line it with soft grass, bark and leaves. They usually lay one to four eggs which hatch in 16 days.
These birds are very stylish, and 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 flurry of 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.
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 famle has red-brown eyes.