Springtime is Golden
Now that the sun is warming up the garden, a superb songbird will be warming up his vocal chords. Springtime is the male Golden Whistler’s time to shine as he sings his little heart out. So make the most of his ode to the sun this month.
The Golden Whistler has several different songs up its wing, which can be heard all the way from Queensland right the way round to Western Australia. One of their common calls sounds like 'we-we-we-tu-whit'.
October is a great time to hear and see these whistling buddies. During winter the males are relatively quiet but when spring and their breeding season kicks off, there is no holding back their song.
The reason the males sing so beautifully, and so loudly, is partly to court and impress their mate but it is also to let other male Golden Whistlers know how big and strong they are, in the hope they won’t intrude on their territory. They will also start singing when they hear loud noises, such as thunder, to try and compete with the sounds.
The male and female Golden Whistlers look very different to each other. The male has a bright yellow belly that makes him easy to spot, and a black and white head. Their colours and markings are mainly used as territorial displays to other males.
The female is a pale brown colour making her very well camouflaged in the trees. Golden Whistlers usually feed and live alone but this month you will have a better chance of spotting the two of them together as they start their families.
Both mum and dad take it in turns to build the soft, cup-shaped little nest for their babies. Mum will then lay two to three eggs which she and dad will take turns to incubate.
Baby Golden Whistlers can look a bit squished in their little nest, especially if three eggs hatch! But they are all lovingly looked after by mum and dad who bring lots of yummy insects to their hungry mouths.
Dad does most of his insect foraging high up in the tree canopy whereas mum will forage in the understorey and get lots of insects hiding behind the bark and on the ground. So leave bark mulch and leaf litter on your garden beds to encourage small birds and other buddies like Blue-tongue Lizards to visit in search of a meal.
The Golden Whistler’s favourite foods are insects and spiders but they are also partial to the odd juicy berry. So if you see this little yellow buddy in your garden or local bushland, you should count yourself lucky that someone is taking care of the garden bugs and spiders for you.
When you spot this buddy, you’ll notice how fidgety they can be. They are constantly turning their head and hopping from branch to branch in search of hidden insects. This can make them easy to spot especially when you see a bright flash of yellow from their feathers, but it can make them very tricky to photograph.
Golden Whistlers love to hang out in leafy trees with plenty of hiding places from predators. If you want to encourage these golden characters into your place, try to plant a variety of native plants that can create a canopy and an understory in your garden.
DID YOU KNOW?
Several close relatives of the Golden Whistler in Papua New Guinea are actually poisonous! Their skin and feathers are covered in a neurotoxin that makes your lips and skin become numb if they come into contact with the bird’s feathers. It is believed this is a result of their diet which includes a poisonous beetle. But don’t worry, the Australian Golden Whistler won’t cause you any trouble.