A mistletoe bird, which likes to feast on its berries.
A mistletoe bird, which likes to feast on its berries.

Mistletoe birds set for Christmas

IT is not just humans putting up decorations in time for Christmas.

Some of Coffs Harbour's most active residents aren’t putting up lights or Santas with reindeer, but rather are decking the halls of their nests with caterpillars and cobwebs.

It is the breeding season for mistletoe birds and they are busy putting the finishing touches to nests, which can be suspended up to 13 metres in a tree.

National Parks and Wildlife foundation executive Leonie Gale said the birds were brilliant builders.

“The mistletoe bird’s nest is an architectural daydream,” Ms Gale said. “It’s shaped like a pear and made out of soft twigs, leaves, grasses (and caterpillars) matted together with delicate gossamer cobwebs.”

Mistletoe birds are found wherever their namesake, the native mistletoe, grows. Mistletoe, a parasitic plant which many consider a pest, is not just their favourite food. Many other animals love it too, including possums, koalas, lorikeets, cockatoos, emus and even cattle and sheep all munch on the leaves, flowers or fruit of the mistletoe.

“The Australian variety of mistletoe isn’t just for kissing under. Mistletoe is a lifesaver for many animals as it often continues to flower in drought or during winter, when few other blossoms are available. It provides nutritious nectar and pollen when times are tough.

“Mistletoe bird numbers are secure around Australia, but individuals can be in trouble if their favourite food is removed.”

Ms Gale said to protect mistletoe bird families, it was important to keep a watchful eye on family dogs and cats and to prevent the removal of mistletoe from trees, as this is the birds’ primary source of food.



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