Discovering a hidden haven in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria, Australia

A real delight over the last few weeks has been having a pair of Eastern Spinebills (Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris) visit the garden. These little honeyeaters are quite small and can be hard to spot, as they fly very rapidly and rest infrequently.

The Eastern Spinebills are only about 14cms in length and have a beautiful neat feathered bib and jacket. As you will see here they are probably the nearest thing we have to hummingbirds, as they can sometimes hover while feeding, which is not usual for Australian birds.

While these birds will happily visit gardens in built up areas, they aren’t as relaxed about it as the bigger wattle birds or parrots. They will only come to the garden if there is something producing tasty nectar for them, or a ready supply of small flying insects. They will also look for gardens that provide a bit of cover to dart into.

The pair are clearly making the most of the couple of native plants we currently have in the garden that are now big enough toΒ  provide some cover.

Eastern Spinebill feeding on a callistemon

Now I’m all the more excited about cutting down the old neglected plum trees at the back of the yard and replacing them with a native bird garden full of the flowering plants they love (along with a few prickly ones to keep the cats at bay!)


Comments on: "A Delightful Visitor – The Eastern Spinebill" (24)

  1. Dear Heidi, What delightful little birds these are and a species completely unknown to me before now. Like you, I should certainly wish to encourage them into my garden. I am not sure of the shrub they are feeding from, but it looks very beautiful.

    • Hello Edith, I am hopeful that if I plant more of nectar rich plants they like, they might just move in. I even suspect that they may have a nest in that callistemon, but I don’t want to disturb them by nosing about too much!

      Sorry, I should have thought to mention more about the callistemons, given that this is a gardening blog! They are native Australian plants found right up the East Coast and over to the West as well. I’m not sure if they are/can be grown in your part of the world, but I believe that they are popular in parts of the U.S.

      Callistemons also go by the common name ‘Bottlebrush’ and more info can be found here if you are interested: (I just noticed on this site that Banks did bring some samples back to Britain that were planted – not sure where or how succecsful they were!)

  2. As I always say, our gardens are complete only when they are visited by bees, birds, and butterflies, wouldn’t you agree?
    That’s a wonderful shot for a bird that never rests. Very clear and beautiful!

  3. Hello Chandramouli – I agree 100 percent – the more birds bees and butterflies the better!
    I also forgot to mention that the pictured callistemon is absolutely covered in bees at the moment – I counted six on just one flower spike!
    I had to be very patient to get a clear picture of the spinebills! They will sit for a moment, and are fairly still when feeding, but I had to wait until they had forgotten I was there or else they would have been fluttering about the whole time!

  4. Interesting little birds you have there. I have some magpies and plenty of crows. They’re okay, but nowhere near as photogenic!

    • Hello IG – we too have maggies and our own version of a crow (the Australian Raven). I don’t think I’d be game to tell either that I don’t think that they are photogenic!

  5. They really do look like hummingbirds.. that was my first thought as I saw your pictures. I’m glad you answered the question about the beautiful red flowers… you have such different plants down under, I can’t recognize them without labels and explanations, even if they may be something we can grow up here! I hope your Spinebills visit again.

    • Hello Laurrie – I think this post shows how easily distracted I can be. I did have in mind a few days ago to do a post about the callistemon as they were bursting into flower…but then some beautiful little birds fluttered past πŸ™‚

  6. I love seeing your native birds! I have the Australian bottlebrushes in my garden, and our hummingbirds love them. We have hummers year-round here, and if it weren’t for the bottlebrushes, they would surely never visit my garden in winter.

  7. What a lovely bird, I have never heard of this little guy before. Thank you for sharing.

  8. What a beautiful bird! I’ve always rather disliked the bottlebrush bushes here. I once made the mistake of being near one, with my long hair loose. I was helping a friend with weeding, stood up, and got zillions of the little sticky red bits stuck in my hair. Couldn’t brush them out. Had to sit there while three of us hand picked out every sticky strand. However, to entice a Spinebill to the garden, I’d have to say that maybe they’re worth growing after all…but if it was my garden, I’d have to wear a hat! πŸ˜›

    • Hi CV, your story made me smile – callistemons are a bit unruly and a lot of people here don’t like them for that very reason. I have had a few flower spikes in a vase myself only to discover one morning that there were lots of sticky red strands stuck to the table!
      But having my little visitors and the bees enjoy the flower spikes so much has renewed my love for them, so lots of sticky flowers in the garden for me – and luckily I always wear a hat!

  9. They sure do look like hummers. Very interesting on the birds and native plants rock!

  10. What a pretty bird! We don’t have that kind of bird here, but we do quite a bit of bottlebrush growing πŸ™‚

  11. This bird is not a common one around here … I know this is part of its territory, but I’ve never seen one. it’s certainly a little cutie and you can certainly tell it’s a honeyeater with that beak. I just love that second photo … great job in capturing that moment!

    • Hi Bernie, I did wonder when I was putting this together if you had them visit your garden too. Hopefully you will have the pleasure one day! I’m certainly hoping it will be a more common occurence for me as I gradually put in more native plants at the back of my garden!

  12. How exciting! The visits of hummingbirds always make my heart go pit-a-pat with joy, Heidi, and I’m smiling now, just imagining these lovely spinebills have chosen to build a nest on your property and how thrilled you must be that they feel safe and nurtured and welcome nearby because of your work and creativity. πŸ™‚

    • I am very excited that they are here Meredith – it makes for those encounters with nature that makes you hold your breath! I’m not absolutely sure that there is a nest there, but Im certainly hoping there is πŸ™‚

  13. I have never heard of this bird! I learn something every time I come to this blog. I also didn’t realize that you don’t have hummingbirds over there.

  14. Not a single hummingbird Jess! I’d love to see one if I ever make it to the US as I find them enchanting and I just can’t get enough of pictures of them!

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