Simpson Shadehouse - Adelaide Botanic Gardens

Simpson Shadehouse - Adelaide Botanic Gardens

11 April 2014

Eastern Spinebill (Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris)

Eastern Spinebills are small Australian birds that survive on nectar and small insects (unusual for honeyeaters). Acanthorhynchus literally means "spine bill" whilst tenuirostris translates as "narrow billed".  The bill is especially designed for extracting nectar from "throated" flowers such as correas, eremophilas and grevilleas and they have adapted to feed from non-native plants such as salvias and abutilons.  Their range is described as "south eastern Australia" stretching from northern Queensland to Adelaide (there's also a Western Spinebill confined to West Australia). Eastern Spinebills generally move very rapidly when feeding from flower to flower and they also flutter (like hummingbirds) on occasion whilst feeding.

I was fortunate to be able to get a few reasonable shots of this Eastern Spinebill yesterday feeding in a large abutilon. Interestingly it inserts its long bill between the interleaved petals near the base rather than from the front of the large flower. There's further information about Eastern Spinebills on the Birds In Backyards website including a recording of their very tuneful piping call.

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