Look up: Tiny bird migration

Posted on 27 April 2021

As the seasons change an extraordinary movement of birds is occurring above our heads.

With the arrival of cooler weather, tiny birds are flying over our homes as they migrate further north to find food.

Ecologist and BirdLife educator Renée Ferster Levy tells us what to look out for and how to help.

Surveys during April and May in the Blue Mountains and Central Coast have recorded thousands of small Honeyeaters migrating each hour. Some tiny birds, like Yellow-faced Honeyeaters (which weigh only 16 grams), may gather in small flocks at South Head, feed on Eucalyptus blossoms, then take off high over the water towards North Head. It is a long and dangerous water crossing for such a little creature, and sometimes they have to turn back and try again a few minutes later. 

Having already flown far from their southern breeding grounds, their exact destination changes from year to year, depending on where there is prolific flowering of the Eucalypts or Banksias on which they feed.


Yellow-faced Honeyeater

At this time of year, you might also spot Silvereyes, some are local and others will have travelled up the coast from Tasmania, and may continue all the way up to Queensland; a phenomenal feat for a bird only 15 cm tall! Silvereyes feed on berries, nectar or insects for energy during their journey.



Less commonly seen birds, like the stunning Golden Whistlers, Grey and Rufous Fantails, and Mistletoebirds have been seen pausing for a feed at nearby Nielson Park, along with the tiny Spotted Pardalotes (only 8 grams), which help protect the Eucalyptus trees by eating insects which feed on their leaves.


Spotted Pardalote

Keen to make your garden a welcome stop over spot for a small migratory bird?

Flying over our suburbs these small birds would be on the lookout for a safe vegetation to rest, like bushy understorey, which offers protection to a small bird. Tall trees are defended by aggressive Noisy Miners and when the small migratory birds stop to rest and feed, they are often chased away and valuable energy is wasted.

Ensuring a diversity of plant species (ideally local natives) will provide flowers and attract insects at different times of the year. So simply by adding shrubs, vines and other small plants, we can help with both shelter and food.

Over the next few weeks, keep an eye out for birds you don’t normally see, or unfamiliar calls and think about how you can be a gracious host to these weary travelers!

If you live in the Bronte, Tamarama and surrounding area you can find out more about creating bird-friendly gardens and receive advice and free native seedlings through Council’s Living Connections program.

For more ideas on how your garden can support birds visit Birds in Backyards ‘Creating Places’.

Article courtesy of Renée Ferster Levy

More information:

Image credits:

Yellow faced honeyeater - Renee Ferster Levy

Silvereye - Birds in Backyards


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