Spotted Quail-thrush behaviour

To: "Carol Probets" <>, <>
Subject: Spotted Quail-thrush behaviour
From: "Colin Driscoll" <>
Date: Tue, 15 Jun 2004 14:53:51 +1000
Carol, I wonder if the Quail Thrush were using ants as insecticide (for
lice). I've seen Noisy Miners picking up ants and rubbing them under their
wings and on their backs as a form of insecticide- the formic acid or
similar I guess- that ants exude when agitated. We think we're smart with
our inseticide spays and the birds have been doing it for many thousands of
years. I've also seen the Superb Fairy-wren doing the same thing with meat
ants- darting onto the mound and grabbing one.



-----Original Message-----
 Behalf Of Carol Probets
Sent: Tuesday, 15 June 2004 2:34 PM
Subject: Spotted Quail-thrush behaviour

I was down in the Capertee Valley over the long weekend where there
has been a little rain of late but not enough to yet be able to
describe conditions as anything but "dry". The Narrow-leaved
Ironbarks have started flowering as have some isolated White Box
around the Glen Davis campground and on my place beside the dam.
Although I camped literally underneath one of these trees, the only
nectarivores I saw in it were White-plumed and Fuscous Honeyeaters
and a couple of Little Lorikeets. However, it's always worth keeping
an eye on any flowering White Box for honeyeater activity.

It was a lazy weekend which allowed me to spend a bit of time
watching the resident Spotted Quail-thrushes. There is a group of
three which came down from the rocky hillside at the beginning of
April and has been around ever since. They seem to range over an area
of at least 4 hectares, which includes the area immediately around
the cabin, a rocky dry creekline, some sparse open woodland and a
patch of dense Acacia shrubland (which they seem particularly fond of
and which seems rather unusual habitat for this species). Yesterday
they extended this list of habitats even further when I found them
out in the front paddock, foraging amongst some fallen branches
beneath an isolated eucalypt. When I got too close they suddenly
flew, one by one, across the grassy paddock to the nearest patch of

These birds constantly maintain voice contact with their thin
high-pitched notes. This means that once I have located them, I can
keep track of their whereabout for some time and quietly follow them
around. At times I noticed them concentrating their feeding efforts
around an ant nest and one of the birds looked like it was picking
off ants, although I cannot be sure what it was actually picking up.
I can find no reference to ants being a part of their diet but in the
NPI volume "Robins & Flycatchers of Australia" it mentions that they
feed on various seeds and that their stomach "frequently contains
grains of sand, which assist the grinding process". It's possible
they could have been getting coarse sand from these ant nests.

Whenever I have visitors, these quail-thrush become frustratingly
difficult to find, and yet alone, I am always encountering them.
Quite the opposite to the male Red-capped Robin who only appears when
I have birding visitors, jumping at the opportunity to show off his
plumage to someone new!

Black-chinned Honeyeaters, Speckled Warbler and Painted Button-quail
were other good birds seen but the property birdlist still stands at



Carol Probets
Blue Mountains &
Capertee Valley, NSW

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