Sunbirds are one of our favourite birds in North Queensland. They are small in size, but big on character. Because of their size, they are easy prey for the carnivores of the avian world. To overcome this vulnerability they often build their nests very close to humans. When she lived in Mackay, one of my sisters had a sunbird nest built at head height, directly over her washing machine. It made washing day a little awkward, but the nestlings were assured of their safety and security from most predators.
In spite of their size they are very brave little fellows. This was proven this morning when frantic chattering and chirping made me investigate the cause of the disturbance.
This was one of the chirpers, swinging back and forth on a coat hanger as she vented her spleen (do birds have spleens?) in the direction of the fence. Can you see what she is so angry about? Hint: it's lurking on the top of the palings.
Before you folk with ophidiophobia (my new word for today - it means snake phobia, but you knew that) freak out, here is a close-up. Yes it is a bamboo snake. The sunbirds are intelligent little guys, but not intelligent enough to recognise that my snake is not real. The unreal snake has been very successful in doing what I hoped it would do. That is frightening off the feral, Indian Myna birds that poo on my washing and take over the environment from the native birds.
I had to go out and remove the snake for the sake of the sunbird family. They would have worn themselves out with their distress and their chirping. So now the snake is on my kitchen sink. I am not an ophidiophobe. If it was a pretend spider, that would be a different thing.
Here is the reason for the sunbirds' consternation. I know she looks like a full grown sunbird and in physical size she is the same as her parents, but she was definitely not a fully fledged adult. Her colours don't quite match the adults' colours. Only adult males have the iridescent blue bib. Females are entirely yellow underneath. Both parents have darker wing and tail feathers. She sat on a branch a safe distance away while her parents courageously saw the snake off the premises. At first I thought she was another adult female until she wobbled a bit on her branch and nervously tried to steady herself. Then I saw she was wearing 'L' plates. Not really, but she was the bird equivalent of a teenage learner driver.
When I think of courageous mothers defending their young, I don't think of lions or any of the big animals who have size on their side. For courageous mothers, and fathers too by the way, you can't beat birds.
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