Chris Watson

Birding Central Australia #72 - Varied Sittella

Chris Watson

Varied Sittella Daphoenositta chrysoptera

Many Alice Springs residents might never have seen the bird in our picture before. This is the Varied Sittella – similar to a type of bird in Europe called a nuthatch. These birds are usually found foraging through woodland habitat in small family groups. They can be difficult to find, but you might bump into them on the trail up Mt Gillen or along the Simpson’s Gap bike path.

That dagger-like beak is used to pry the bark off trees and pick out small invertebrates. They’re a small bird, not particularly common, and so they are easily overlooked. Their foraging technique is very precise; they fly up to the top of a tree trunk and spiral their way down the trunk, picking and probing for food on the way down. Then they fly to the top of the next tree trunk and start all over again. This is notable for its contrast with the foraging technique of another central Australian bird, the White-browed Treecreeper. The treecreeper will fly to the base of a trunk and work its way upward in its search for food before flying to the base of the next tree.

Some interesting reports came in from Alice birders making the most of their long weekend. Angela Stewart and Jesse Carpenter found plenty of Gibberbirds on plains near Charlotte Waters. Great Cormorants were reported at Ormiston Gorge and along the Hugh River. The Tanami Road had several flocks of Banded Lapwings and, after sunset, plenty of Bourke’s Parrots and Common Bronzewings approaching any open water. Also to the north-west, a few large flocks of Masked Woodswallows had some White-browed Woodswallows among them.

Happy birding!