Subject: Mistletoebird
Date: Thu, 12 Aug 2004 16:58:20 +1000
This is an enjoyable thread started by Gary Blond (did he know what he might 
spark off?).

I just love Mistletoes and I hope David Watson will see some of the thread.

A few comments from my position of great interest and ignorance (corrections 

1. Whoops! I should have written in my first response in the thread about Peter 
Fuller's Mistletoe brainteaser. "Since there is lots of FOSSIL mistletoe in 
Tasmania but no Mistletoebirds I reckon you could work that out yourself ! (OK 
"lots" is an exaggeration).

Haven't heard of fossil Mistletoebirds, though. But the contributions by Peter 
Ewin and Lawrie Conole about Lyrebirds in Tassie and species turnover make me 
wonder if there could be any.  

Actually I got the idea of Mistletoebirds being recent arrivals from a famous 
ornithologist, including his suggestion (as I recall it) that they did not 
carry enough calories to cross the Bass Strait. I'd love to hear from someone 
about mistletoe diversity from north Oz to south and the explanations 
(particularly given the marvellous mistletoe diversity in the north outlined by 
Syd Curtis) and the timing of this evolution.

2. Michael Hunter mentioned the WA Christmas Tree. There is a great website 
which has extensive plant relationships (and like all websites could be "wrong" 
or not up to date - given the way those marvellous taxonomists keeping on 
changing our appreciations). See:

It includes the WA Christmas Tree as the sole member of the Genus Nuytsia (and 
parasitic on grasses). (KOFGAS is a way of remembering Kingdom, Order, Family, 
Genus And Species.)

(Incidentally it shows, as members of the Order Santalales, the Santalaceae 
family as well as the Loranthaceae and Viscaceae families. The Santalaceae 
include the root parasitic Ballarts which, together with the mistletoes, are 
host plants of Delias and other Australian butterfly caterpillars (Wood White 
and Imperial White down here). I'd say something about phylogeny and ontogeny 
if I knew enough !)   

3. Lastly, so I am not the only person who is mistaken. The European mistletoes 
are parasitic (or parasitoid) on a range of deciduous trees. The one I know 
from England grows on oak trees and the Druid priests were said to 
ceremoniously cut it down with a sickle at the Winter Equinox. 

4. We have a few records down here of Mistletoebirds feeding on other drupes, 
both exotic, being Coprosma (Mirror-bush) and Boxthorn.  Suspicions of them 
taking Cotoneaster and the indigenous Common Boobialla.

And I can still get Mistletoe at Xmas !

Michael Norris
Hampton, Vic
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