The Wattlebird and the Case of the Missing Air Plant

A friend from Sydney gave me quite a bit of Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides) from her garden. In Sydney, Spanish Moss grows quite well, but while it will survive here (just) in the mountains, it needs a lot of protection, and it never really thrives.

Undeterred, I hung it from the Japanese Maple, and had been enjoying it for the last five or six months when one day about 10 weeks ago it simply vanished.

I put it down to some of the many blustery gales that we get here and had to console myself with the one or two strands left behind.

That is, until yesterday.

Wattlebirds (Anthochaera carunculata) are a native honey eater, and are very common here, but recently they’ve been behaving very aggressively towards every other bird/animal that enters the garden.

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Wattlebird (courtesy Wikipedia)

All this activity has been centred on a large cotoneaster bush along one side of the house. It had been very overgrown, but instead of ripping it out when I moved in, I gave it a haircut while I decided what to do with it. Consequently, it has densely leafed up and is quite a nice shape.

So, I went to investigate.

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Wattlebird in its nest. (Image has been brightened/adjusted to make the bird visible)

This explains all of the aggressive activity in the garden of late. So, I took a closer look at the nest (waiting until the mother wasn’t guarding it of course)….

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Nest and my missing Spanish Moss

And lo and behold, all my missing Spanish Moss has formed the base of the nest.

Very cute.

But wait……

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Baby Wattlebird

There’s the little chick.

It’s amazing to see all of the elements from my garden and shed that have been put to use: the Spanish Moss on the base and edges, my straw mulch that features in every photo lines part of the  inside, but the pièce de résistance has to be the excess white insulation wool that I stored after the renovation at the very back of my shed…the brave wattle bird had to go inside the shed and pull bits off to make that.

As if the act of, and engineering involved in, nest building weren’t amazing enough, to look at all of the layers used…just incredible!

At least my Spanish Moss has been put to good use.

Happy Gardening 🙂

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20 thoughts on “The Wattlebird and the Case of the Missing Air Plant

    • They are – I’m always amazed to see what bits and pieces they use for nests. But certainly going inside a shed and pulling insulation from inside a plastic wrapper takes the cake for nest-building

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  1. Mystery solved. It’s funny that the bird found multiple useful materials in your garden. Perhaps the Tillandsia will tough it out and you’ll be able to reclaim some of it when she’s done nesting.

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    • Thanks – I wasn’t expecting to see the baby (maybe an egg or two). It’s eyes are still closed, so the chick is very young indeed. But there are a lot of nectar and fruit producing plants in the garden nearby, so it will have plenty of food.

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  2. Birds really are amazing! Last winter, after an ice storm, I saw a little Ruby-capped Kinglet do his best to imitate a hummingbird in front of the hummingbird feeder. He kept trying, and failing, over and over and over again. His persistence was impressive, and endearing. Eventually, I duct-taped a chopstick to the feeder to give him a perch to rest on. So cute…

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    • That’s a great idea! Once I have finished with the insulation (I still have one more extension to add to the house), I think I will leave little clumps of it around in spring so the birds use that rather than my Spanish Moss 🙂

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