Forty Spotted Pardalote

Forty Spotted Pardalote Birds of Australia, Ken Simpson, Nicolas Day

Seeing this bird is a big deal for anyone, even the people who live on Bruny Island, the dot of land that dangles off the southern tip of Tasmania. Once birders get past jokes about how many spots were really counted on this tiny foliage forager, they respond more seriously to seeing a beautiful bird that is struggling to survive.

Our guide, Dr. Tonia Cochran, a long time resident, owns and stewards a large piece of land in held trust for the wildlife. She explains to the school groups that visit the importance of the particular eucalyptus that the rare Pardalote needs for survival. The children plant seeds of the tree in little pots. The next year, they return to replant the sprouts on her property or in other locations on the island. They each then have an investment in the survival of the bird. The kids respond well to the responsibility, telling people they know about the importance of birds and the trees.

The property Dr. Cocheran bought twenty years ago had some of these eucalyptus trees on it, and her private road is lined with some that she and the children have planted. On our first visit one afternoon, we walked the road, listening with no luck for the bird’s call. These are wild birds and are not always around for even the most eager birder. On our first stop the next morning, we walked the same road. We could hear them but they were high up in the trees and difficult to see.

We spread out, checking high and low, unable to fix on a bird before it flew. Finally someone found one of the birds nearby and low enough for good views. We hurried carefully, something birders must learn to do, to get close enough before the bird flew again. It flitted around a lovely little bridge over a tiny stream where the light was excellent. One person or two would be “on” the bird and try to tell us where it was, but then it would move. Such frustration. Then, it flew down close to the ground and landed in a small brush pile. All binoculars locked on the movement. In and out of the brush it hopped, but at last it stood on a twig and paused. The prominent spots and the yellow rump identified the glorious male. And no, I did not count the twenty spots per side. I am quite willing to take the word of anyone who claims to have done so.