Identify 40-spots

Tiny, light olive green birds with white spots on their wings that move fast, but stick around the same area.  Limited to Tasmania, some people like to call them the Tasmanian Pardalote, or even Gould’s Diamond as pardalotes are collectively known as ‘diamond birds’ because of their tiny, jewel-like appearance.  The 40-spot is the dull cousin of the family.

Birds in Backyards has some information on the 40-spot, not all of which is up-to-date, and DPIPWE also has an entry.

Some people say they look a bit like moths – fasting fluttering wings – not flying very far, but quite acrobatic.

They are typically in manna or white gums (E. viminalis) or not very far away, except for the teenagers that are happy to party elsewhere for a little while after they have fledged in October – November. They typically return to the colony that they came from, but occasionally, they set up a new colony.

Their cousins are much showier – if you see a brightly colored pardalote, it is unlikely to be a 40-spot:

  • the Spotted has a crown of spots surmounting an ashen eyebrow on its head and quite bright breast and under-tail
  • The Striated has no spots at all, but a very dominant streaky eyebrow and is highly coloured

The calls are also very different:

  • the 40-spot has a soft, almost querulous call “where… where-where… ” usually only one or two notes.  You need to be quite close by to hear it.
  • the Spotted call is much bolder and high-pitched, with a 3-4 note “d-dee-dee” or “sleep-may-be”
  • the Striated again is a dominant call, heard from far away, often repeated ad-infinitum “pick-it-up“, “pick-up”

The 40-spot breeds between August and December. Four to five eggs are laid with potential for a second clutch. Clutches are generally fledged by September-October. The incubation period is 16-20 days and fledging is approximately 25 days (DPIPWE, 2007).

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