Crested thrush, “Dick-Dick- the Devil”
The Crested bellbird is native to Australia and is a medium-sized passerine member of the family Oreoicidae that lives on mainland Australia in dry habitats. Its rich musical call is one of its most remarkable features, being a series of bell-like staccato, then a loud ‘plop’. It is also surprising that this sound is ventriloquial - the bellbird can throw its voice, sounding as though it is off to your left a few meters, then fifty meters on your right, then behind you, making it difficult to establish the bird’s location. There is little information about the Crested bellbird’s lifespan.
Crested bellbirds are endemic to mainland Australia, occurring west of the Great Dividing Range, in tropical northern Australia in the south, in South Australia and across to Western Australia’s west coast. These birds inhabit both semi-arid coastlines and the arid interior of the country and are found in eucalypt woodlands, acacia shrublands, spinifex and chenopod (saltbush) dunes or plains. Crested bellbirds are either sedentary or are locally nomadic in regions that are drier.
Habits and lifestyle
Crested bellbirds forage in low shrubs or on the ground, rarely perching high. They are mainly solitary and sedentary but occur in pairs in the breeding season. They may be seen in mixed feeding groups alongside Chestnut-rumped thornbills and Red-capped robins. They are very shy birds and spend much of their time foraging in scrublands. Their flight pattern is strong, undulating and low to the ground. Although being usually quiet and unobtrusive, the crested bellbird male has a very loud, distinctive call and ringing song, able to be heard as far as half a kilometer away.
Diet and nutrition
The Crested bellbird is serially monogamous and forms pairs only for the breeding season. Pairs make a nest of twigs, leaves or bark in the shape of a cup, usually in a fork of a tree. A pair has a permanent territory which averages three to four hectares. The female is very plain and only sings with the male occasionally. The breeding season varies but usually is from August until December. One to four eggs are laid, and both parents incubate them for about 16 days. The nestling period for Crested bellbird chicks lasts approximately 12 days.
Threats to Crested bellbirds include the decline of its range as a result of land clearing and being hunted by cats and foxes.
According to IUCN, Crested bellbird is locally common throughout its range. According to the Department of the Environment and Energy (Australian Government) resource, the total size of the Crested bellbird’s southern population is 2,500,000 breeding pairs. Currently Crested bellbirds are classified as Least Concern (LC) and their numbers today are decreasing.
Fun facts for kids
- Crested bellbirds are also called 'Dick-Dick-the Devil' because of their call.
- The male Crested bellbird has an unmistakable 'punk-like' crest.
- An interesting part of nest-making for this species is the placing of various types of hairy caterpillar in and around the nest, the birds nipping the caterpillars necks to immobilize them. It is thought that these caterpillars serve either as a supply of fresh food for the parents and their young or as a barricade for the chicks.
- The Crested bellbird’s distinct call is high-pitched and bell-like, with two slow notes followed by three fast notes, making a 'did-did-did-dit' sound.
- Males sit on an exposed perch to sing, such as on the top of a tree or on a dead branch. Often duets are sung, where the male makes a 'tik-tik-tik', the female replying with a bell-like 'tonk-tonk.'