Other names: Southern Figbird, Mulberry-bird.
Size: Similar to Rainbow Lorikeet.
Range and lifestyle: Eastern and northern Australia.
Food: Fruit and insects.
Breeding: October to January in Southeast Qld. Flimsy, saucer-shaped nest composed of twigs and vine tendrils. Clutch is 2-3 eggs, pale bluish-green covered with red-brown spots, incubated by both male and female for over 2 weeks. Chicks fed for another 2 weeks.
The Australasian Figbird is a social species found across the coastal regions of northern and eastern Australia. As its name implies, the Australasian Figbird eats figs, but while this may be their favourite food, they also eat most soft fruits and berries when they are ripe. In nature, they live mostly in rainforests where many trees have soft fruits that evolved for birds to eat, so that their seeds could be dropped far away. Europeans cleared much of the rainforest around Brisbane, but as they built towns and cities, they also planted figs and other fruit-bearing trees, which attracted Figbirds into urban areas. Now the Figbird is a common sight in many parts of Brisbane, even in the city centre.
Figbirds nest in colonies, an uncommon habit among Australian songbirds. Colonies usually contain around 10-20 nests, sometimes with up to five nests in the one tree at the same time. Despite being brightly-coloured, the male sits on the eggs like the female, possibly so the eggs take less time to develop and hatch. Perhaps it is not so important to be camouflaged when so many eyes are watching for danger. When an egg-robbing bird approaches the colony, many Figbirds will join together to attack and chase it off. Figbirds aren’t afraid to nest in busy urban settings – colonies have been found in carparks and footpaths near crossroads with traffic lights!
Their breeding season is short compared to that of most songbirds, probably because most birds nest at the same time. After breeding, colonies often join together to form large ‘feeding flocks’ of up to 100 birds. If you see a flock of 20 or more medium-sized birds sitting close together on a power line, they will most likely be Figbirds, and there may be a fruiting fig tree on the opposite side of the road into which they are regularly flying!
Text © Richard Noske 2019 CC BY-NC-SA
Figbird chicks beg their parents for food in a unique way - with their red-coloured mouths wide open, they rapidly shake their heads from side to side.
HANZAB 7A; Richard Noske.