Forty-spotted pardalote: survive and THRIVE!

Forty-spotted pardalotes, or ’40-spots’ as they are lovingly known, are rare, endemic and endangered.  The small population has declined dramatically since the last century and now numbers less than 1,500 individuals.

Bruny Island is a stronghold for the species, thus BIEN has prioritised actions to help the population survive and thrive. We are privileged to work with the Recovery Team (led by the wonderful  Dr Sally Bryant) and ‘Inala’ Director ( the marvelous Dr Tonia Cochran) and the support of so many private landholders.

40-spots  need white gums to survive and habitat rich in this eucalypt species largely occurs on private land, thus land owners are critically important for the future of the species on Bruny Island.

Read how you can help by:

Identify 40-spots

Forty-spotted pardalotes are tiny (90-100 mm in length), light olive green birds that move continually in the canopy.  They establish colonies in areas rich in white (Manna) gums.

Confined entirely to Tasmania, some people often 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 duller coloured cousin of the family.

Their Tasmanian cousins are much showier and conspicuous – if you see a brightly coloured pardalote, it is unlikely to be a 40-spot as the pictures below show.

  • 40-spots (left) are predominantly light olive-green with white spots only on their black wings
  • the Spotted (centre) has a black crown of white spots surmounting an ashen eyebrow on its head and quite bright breast and under-tail
  • the Striated (right) has no spots at all, but a very dominant streaky eyebrow

The calls are also very different:

  • the 40-spot has a soft, quiet call sometimes described as “where… where, where… ” usually only one or two notes.  You need to be quite close by to hear it.
  • the Spotted call is bolder and high-pitched, with a 3-4 note “d-dee-dee” or “sleep-may-be”
  • the Striated again is a dominant 2-3 note call, often repeated ad-infinitum “pick-it-up“, “pick-up”

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 white gums (E. viminalis) or not very far away, except for the teenagers that are happy to party elsewhere after they have fledged in October – December.

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 the fledging period is approximately 25 days. (More information can be found in the Recovery Plan and Listing Statement.

Identify White (Manna) gums

White gums provide rich food sources. Insects, birds and fungus all love them.  The 40-spot depends on these trees for the lerp and sweet sugary secretions they produce.

The name “manna” comes from the sweet sticky exudate that forms naturally from damage points on the twigs and small branches.  It is this that the 40-spot rely, and even farm!  Chicks and fledglings are fed this almost exclusively.

White gum varies in size – typically 10 plus metres and in moist environments can grow to a massive forest tree (30 plus metres).  Large, old, mature white gum house the 40-spots in great numbers.

It has smooth bark, sometimes with rough bark ‘stocking’ near the base, lance-shaped to curved adult leaves, flower buds in groups of three, white flowers and cup-shaped or hemispherical fruit (gumnuts).  When mature and dry, the gumnuts have a raised disc and open valves.  Of the lowland white smooth bark eucalypts, these ‘exerted’ valves provide the diagnostic feature that the tree is a White gum.

Mature white gum nuts come in threes (or less) with the ‘valves exerted’ or protruding. This is diagnostic for white gum on Bruny. The nuts are small – always less then 8mm

Their white, smooth bark with pendulous arching leaves unfortunately oft exhibit red and ginger stains from leaking sap.  Once these stains appear, death is likely to follow in a few years.

It is typically quite a beautiful tree, relatively easily confused with Swamp gum (E. ovata) which is generally much more untidy and has green flower buds in groups of seven, white flowers and conical to bell-shaped fruit without protruding valves.

On Bruny other potential look-alikes with smooth white bark are

  • white peppermint (E. pulchella) – flower buds in groups of more than seven and much narrower leaves that smell of peppermint,
  • silver peppermint (E. tenuiramis) – flower budsin groups of more than seven, the twigs (and often leaves) covered in a white, waxy bloom
  • blue gum (E. globulus) – single large warty gumnuts (more than 15mm) that can be found under the tree, bigger leaves and chunkier twigs.

Monitor nestboxes

A key part of the recovery team and BIEN’s role in helping the 40-spot survive and thrive is monitoring.

An example of the benefits of monitoring is at Inala, where Tonia and her crew watch closely what is going on in breeding season, and if potential nests become limiting to this thriving colony, they put up new nest boxes.

Anywhere that nestboxes have been erected should be monitored for 40-spot activity and the best people to monitor the boxes are those who live nearby.

Typically, sites with the oldest or most white gums will already have nest boxes and are critical for monitoring.

Monitoring nestboxes first requires registration of the boxes, then a separate monitoring sheet for each observation.

Click here for the registration form. Filling this out defines the location and unique identifier of the nestbox(es) and your contact details.

Click here for the monitoring form. Once the nestbox has been registered, multiple observations can be made.

The data will be collected and used by the recovery team and the results mounted here on the BIEN website.

Monitor for 40-spot presence and upload data

The recovery team has identified about 50 sites along public roads, near known or potential 40-spot colonies that should be monitored for activity. When using the Birdata App, these sites will appear automatically on your phone (tablet, computer).

There are two main ways that you can help to monitor the population. Ideally monitor at least 4 times per year but whenever and as often as you like is good. 

  1. Record your observations and share this with us. The key information is date, place (good enough for us to know where you took the observations) and your observations.
  2. However, the best way is to use the Birdata App :

Collect observations on the ‘Birdata App downloaded on your mobile phone.  Search in the AppStore or GooglePlay or follow the link above on your mobile phone.

  • You will need to register.  This is free and the username and password will be sent out personally to you. (contact here to access username and password)
  • Standard protocol is 5 mins but 10 mins or longer is fine.
  • Use ‘Incidental Search’ survey method and set the time limit.
  • It is particularly rewarding to monitoring during nesting and fledging (August – December), as you may see the birds servicing their partner, then the chicks, and eventually, the young fledglings emerging and starting to explore their surrounds.

The data is uploaded to BirdLife Australia and you retain a record on your phone. The recovery team will analyse the data and results will be mounted on BIEN website.

The App is free and can be used freely, without further registration. If you want to join BirdLife Australia, annual membership is about $70 and is tax deductable.

More Information about the Birdata from BirdLife Australia’s website https://birdlife.org.au/

Install nest boxes in suitable habitat

Make sure that there is suitable habitat in your area with at least several white gums. The smaller the number of trees, the less boxes are needed.

BIEN has a stock of nest boxes that have been built by the Bruny Men’s Shed.  Contact us to obtain one for your property.

Install the nest box as high up in a white gum as you can and try to face the entrance hole away from cold prevailing winds. 

You can also build them yourself. Download a pdf of the design to print out here.

This is a well-tested design for 40-spot nest box construction