Gary Blond wrote:
> Am interested in attracting mistletoebirds to my garden. I live at
> Joynerin SE Qld ( about 25 kms north of Brisbane ).
> Three questions:
> 1. Are they a common bird in these parts? ( according to Simpson and
> Day they are, but never sighted one! )
> 2. Is it true they are only attracted to the Mistletoe tree/shrub (?)
> 3. Are Mistletoe trees/shrubs(?) available in nurseries?
> Gary Blond
Australian Mistletoes are not, I believe, closely related to the typical
Mistletoe sometimes seen on Christmas cards etc. However both are
Australian Mistletoe is spread by Mistletoe-birds - there are many
species illustrated in plant books. Typically, their leaves resemble
those of the host plant. Locally in Melbourne we have Drooping Mistletoe
which grows on eucalypts and has pendulous growth and leaves like a
thick gumleaf without veins; also the Grey Mistletoe which grows on
wattles in a bushy manner but doesnt look much like a wattle. Casuarina
Mistletoes look quite like Sheoak leaves.
The fruits are sweetish and very sticky. The Mistletoe digests this
sweet coating to the seed with great speed and then excretes the seed
onto a branch accompanied by a handy blob of fertilizer. It sticks in
place, germinates and puts out stems and leaves; in due course it
produces flowers with nectar appreciated by honeyeaters and lorikeets as
well as by Mistletoebirds. Locally they seem to flower when nothing
else seems available, so a birdwatcher should always inspect a bunch in
a tree. The leaves are eaten by Brushtail Possums. A healthy tree seems
able to support quite a lot of mistletoe and the bushy growth is often
used as a nest-site. I have often seen Drooping Mistletoe growing on
introduced trees such as Plums and Pin-Oaks.
All in all, I have never heard of artificial establishment of
mistletoe, but you could always try if you have a suitable large
indigenous tree which might act as host, if you can collect the seed.
The parasite robs the tree of some food and moisture, so the branch
outboard of the mistletoe may die off after a while. Really I think it
would be simpler to find and identify mistletoes in local bushland, and
watch to see what fauna makes use of it - including the insects. Some
beautiful Azure Butterflies have caterpillars which feed on the leaves
at night - during the day they are guarded by various ant species.
I was once very amused to find a reasonable drawing of a Mistletoebird
in an English book on Tropical Birds - but the artist had carefully
placed it on a branch of European Mistletoe, which looks nothing like
As for finding the bird, look for something like a Pardalote (same
size) - the grey female has a little pinky-red round the vent and seems
to be much more often seen than the brilliant red, white and dark-blue
male. It has a sweet whistly call rather like saying "Tooty-sweet!"
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