images of australian wildlife

Golden Whistler

Golden Whistler

I have always assumed that part of the reason Golden Whistlers sing so constantly is to pass on a message to potential mates and rivals about their fitness and the richness of their territory: "I am so good at my role", says the whistler, "that seeing to my daily needs takes only a moment; I can afford to sing all day long — so don’t mess with me!"

Perhaps that is so, but I learned something very interesting from watching this unusually cooperative individual for half an hour or so: when a whistler sings, he isn’t just singing. As we have all seen often enough, a whistler arrives on a perch and calls for a minute or two, then flips over to a different perch and calls again, moves and calls again, and so on. Contrary to my assumption, this isn’t just a matter of marking out his territory: all the time the whistler is keeping a very sharp eye out for insects.

The twig this whistler is perched on extends out to the left. It divides into two or three underneath his head. The lower-most twig — just below and almost parallel to the main twig — isn’t a twig; it’s a superbly camouflaged grub — but not camouflaged well enough to fool a Golden Whistler: a few moments later he ate it.