birds feeding on Silky Oaks

Subject: birds feeding on Silky Oaks
From: Susan Knowles <>
Date: Fri, 28 Apr 2000 16:05:04 +1000 (EST)
I received this through a plant newsletter and thought it might be of interest.

The Australian Plants Society (SGAP Vic) and the Bird Observers Club of
Australia (BOCA) have a joint project to encourage people to look more
closely at the local trees of Silky Oak Grevillea robusta when they are in
flower later this year.

This is one of a number of the 250 species of grevilleas which can
truthfully be called a tree, and can grow up to 30 metres tall.  In its own
habitat it is a tree of the rainforest.

The natural range of the Silky Oak is relatively small, from about the
Clarence River in New South Wales north to Maryborough in Queensland and in
his book A Field Guide to Australian Trees (Hamlyn 1989), Ivan Halliday
states that it is now becoming quite rare in its natural state.  In
Encyclopaedia of Australian Plants Vol. 5 ( 1990 Lothian) Rodger Elliot and
David Jones state that it has become naturalized in some areas such as the
Atherton Tablelands.

Because of their hardiness and adaptability to soil and climate variation
(although they don't like frosts) Silky Oaks are frequently planted in
streets and public gardens in Australia and also overseas.  Elliot and
Jones state that it is used in avenues and as a street tree in western
United States of America and China.
It has been cut as a timber tree and used in furniture, and apparently the
common name originated because of a perceived similarity of the
yellow-brown patterned wood to oak timber.  Leaves are large, pinnate and
somewhat fernlike.

Flowering occurs usually from early summer onwards, and we would be
interested to see the variation of dates for this, the first flowers and
the last.  It could be seasonal, but it could vary according to where the
tree is in Australia (or overseas).

Typical grevillea flowers, they are spectacular orange-yellow brushes up to
15 centimetres long.  They are rich in nectar which attracts a variety of
birds, fruit-bats and insects.

We are asking people everywhere to record all visitors to the flowers.
Date, place, plus name, address and phone number of recorder would be
required in a written record as verbal messages can be a problem.  Forward
records to BOCA HQ marked Silky Oak.

We know that various honeyeaters, lorikeets and occasionally woodswallows
visit the flowers but it would be really good to have records of  the
variety of species attracted to the flowers across the huge range of areas
where this tree has been planted.  Any past records would be welcome now.
Do have a look now to see where your closest Silky Oak is.

If you have photographs of this species in bloom, either prints or slides,
we would be grateful to have a look at them now, and would ask your
permission to have duplicates made.  If there are birds or animals in the
photos all the better, but that would be a bonus.  Video footage or line
drawings would also be very welcome.

Members of our two organisations have so much in common that it is more
than time we worked together in this way, so it will be a most interesting

Please contact BOCA HQ with any queries -  P.O. Box 185, Nunawading Vic,
3131: tel 03 9877 5342 or 1300 305 342 or E mail as indicated below.

Ellen McCulloch,  BOCA

Susan Knowles

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