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A photo of a Western Spinebill (Acanthorhynchus superciliosus), male
Western Spinebill, Male

Western Spinebill

Acanthorhynchus superciliosus

The Western Spinebill, Acanthorhynchus superciliosus, presents a striking figure with its black head, grey back, and wings, and a distinctive red band that graces the neck and extends from the throat to the breast. This small honeyeater, with its slender and elegantly curved bill, measures between 12 to 16 centimeters in length and tips the scales at a mere 10 grams.

Identification Tips

Males of the species are slightly larger on average and boast a dark olive-grey plumage above with a chestnut nape. Their underparts are a rich chestnut, bordered below by a white band and a black band, with a buff abdomen. A white eyebrow and a black mask are set off by white outer tail feathers that are conspicuously displayed in flight. Females, by contrast, are smaller and plainer, with a pale rufous nape and throat, and lack the male's distinctive banding.

Habitat

The Western Spinebill is a denizen of the heath and woodland areas of south-western Australia, where it frequents the understorey of heaths, coastal scrub, woodlands, and forest, as well as Banksia thickets.

Distribution

This species is endemic to the southwestern corner of Western Australia, ranging from north of Jurien Bay to Israelite Bay, and inland to an arc encompassing Moora, Corrigin, and Lake Grace.

Behaviour

The Western Spinebill exhibits local nomadic tendencies, with males often defending their territory borders against other males, while allowing females to reside within. Their territories typically span 0.2 to 0.5 hectares.

Song & Calls

The bird's voice is a high, shrill, staccato piping, which can be transcribed as "kleet-kleet" or "kleat-kleat," a sound that is as distinctive as the bird itself.

Breeding

Breeding occurs from September to January, with the female constructing a nest from bark, plant stems, down, and spider web. The nest is often placed 1 to 5 meters off the ground. The female lays 1 to 2 eggs, which are incubated primarily by her, with the male occasionally assisting. Both parents feed the nestlings, which fledge after about 15 days.

Similar Species

The Western Spinebill forms a superspecies with the closely related Eastern Spinebill, but is the only one found across its range in southwestern Australia.

Diet and Feeding

The Western Spinebill feeds on nectar from lower shrubs, including Banksia, Dryandra, Grevillea, Adenanthos, and Verticordia, as well as from trees of Banksia and Eucalyptus, and herbs such as Anigozanthos. It also consumes insects, which it captures in the air or on plants.

Conservation status

The IUCN Red List has classified the Western Spinebill as Least Concern, indicating that, at present, this species does not face any immediate threat of extinction.

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