A Brilliant Spectacle: Tracking the Enchanting Nomadic Bird that Pursues Rain

A brilliantly hued songbird whose male boasts a crimson crown and belly, a gray back, a black mask, a white throat, a light-colored eye, and wings that are blackish with slim, pale wing bars during the breeding season.

Meet the Crimson Chat

by sussexbirder is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The crimson chat, (Epthianura tricolor), also known as the tricoloured chat, saltbush canary, and crimson-breasted nun, is a small bird species native to Australia. These birds are typically 10-13 cm (3.9-5.1 in) in length and weigh around 10-11 g (0.35-0.39 oz). Crimson chats have thin, long legs, a downward curving bill, and a brush-like tipped tongue. Adult males are covered in brown feathers with red crowns and underparts, a black mask around their eyes, and white throats. Females and young birds have similar coloring but with paler markings. Males are usually more brightly colored than females, especially during the breeding season when they need to attract a mate.

“Crimson Chat.” by Laurie R B is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

The crimson chat is often confused with the male red-capped robin, but there are three main differences between the two species. The male crimson chat has a crimson crown and underparts, a white throat, and a yellow eye. In contrast, the red-capped robin has a black body with a crimson chest and cap, white wing marks, and a dark eye.

Additionally, the crimson chat’s bill is longer and thinner than the robin’s. When a crimson chat is spotted, a nearby saltbush, Spinifex, or mulga is often present, as these plants are commonly associated with the species.

“Crimson Chat” (cropped) by jeans_Photos is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Crimson Chats are found throughout central Australia from the west coast to the Great Dividing Range and from the tropics to the south coast.

“Crimson Chat” by Laurie R B is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

They can be found in various habitats, including deserts, semi-arid regions, woodlands, grasslands, and coastal shrublands. They typically inhabit areas on the fringes of wet regions where it is more dry, living in various types of shrubland such as saltbush, bluebush, acacia, and samphire.

“Crimson Chat” by Laurie R B is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

These birds move to wetter areas when there is insufficient rainfall, helping them find the best flowers and nectar. Although they do not follow routine seasonal migrations, flocks of crimson chats may wander over a wide area around their range to track rain.

“Crimson Chat” by Laurie R B is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Crimson chats eat insects and spiders on the ground or in shrubs and use their brush-like tongue to extract nectar or take seeds from flowers close to the ground. They are more likely to walk than hop, and are typically seen on or near the ground.

“Crimson Chat” by Laurie R B is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Breeding occurs from August to October in the south and at almost any time in the drier northern regions following rain. These birds form small flocks and pairs throughout the breeding season and the rest of the year, with clusters of nests defended by both male and female chats. Nest building is a shared task, with nests located close to the ground in low shrubs or grass and made from grass, rootlets, hair, feathers, and twigs. Females lay 2-4 pink and white, brown-red spotted eggs measuring 17 mm x 13 mm (0.67 in x 0.51 in), and both parents incubate the eggs for 12-13 days and feed the young birds once they hatch for two weeks until they can fly on their own to find food. If a predator comes near the nest, either parent will fake an injury to distract the creature away from the nest. Predators include cats, snakes, foxes, and larger birds such as ravens.

“Crimson Chat” by Laurie R B is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

The conservation of this bird is secure according to relevant Federal and NSW organizations, with the only significant threat being predators.

“File:Crimson Chat 1 – Round Hill Nature Reserve.jpg” by JJ Harrison (https://www.jjharrison.com.au/) is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

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