While the human world is in upheaval, it is lovely to see the usual autumn visitors to my bush garden – the Silvereyes.
These tiny birds are a very sweet and attractive garden visitor, with olive green, bright green and grey plumage, and a ring of miniscule silver white feathers around each eye that gives the birds their name.
The old English names of Silvereyes in Australia give us an insight into a bit of a love-hate relationship with the birds – mostly related to garden thievery: Cherrypicker, Grape-eater, Blightie or Blightbird – but also more affectionate names such as Greenie, Silvey, Twinkie, and my favourite “Little Grinnell”!
A flock of about 10 Silvereyes were very busy in the garden this morning, bustling about in the foliage of a hazelnut that was turning autumn yellow, and then they moved across to a big old Banksia that is in flower. The silvereyes stayed in this tree for some time, using their sturdy, chisel-like bills to probe in old banksia cones for insects, and in the flowers themselves for nectar.
There are 9 subspecies of Silvereyes, some confined to tiny islands such as King Island, and others over larger areas such as Western Australia.
“My” Silvereyes have cinnamon or rufous coloured flanks, which may indicate they are the subspecies lateralis, or the buff-flanked subspecies.
Banding studies (where birds are captured and tiny rings attached to their legs, and then recaptured) suggest that these silvereyes migrate from Tasmania in the Autumn, spend the winter in south east Australia as far north as south east Qld, and then return to Tasmania in Spring to breed!
Silvereyes weigh just 11 grams and make the journey across Bass Strait – that is over 200 km of ocean, not just once but twice a year!
Flocks of some 500 birds have been observed flying in from the sea at Wilsons Prom and Cape Woolami – what a sight that would be. They would be so hungry and thirsty after their flight.
Not all Silvereyes migrate in this way, for example in Sydney, they are resident all year round, and then their numbers are added to by the visitors from Tasmania in the winter months.