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Conflict

Conflict

A mystery: itís a Spotted Pardalote and a Brown-headed Honeyeater having an altercation. So far as I could tell, the argument was over rights to the hanging strips of mallee bark in the centre of the picture, presumably good nesting material. (This was April but Spotted Pardalotes seem to nest at almost any time of year; I donít know if the same applies to Brown-headed Honeyeaters.)

There were six or eight small birds in the immediate vicinity, each of the several different species busily doing its own thing while the break between showers lasted. The honeyeater arrived on the branch as pictured, only to be suddenly set upon by the furous little pardalote. The bigger bird backed off for a few moments, apparently out of surprise as much as anything else, but then returned to claim ownership of the twig and see the much smaller pardalote off the property.

The extraordinary thing, at least to these human eyes, is that there was enough hanging bark within a few metres of this spot to line a hundred nests. Was there something special about this particular bit? Was the pardalote simply defending the area immediately above its tunnel nest? If so, why couldnít I find a nest entrance, and why did the pardalote ignore the Jacky Winters, Inland Thornbills and other honeyeaters nearby?