Soon after my visit to Southern states in December 2017 I wrote about “honeyeaters and their next-nearest kin, mainly because I have … seen species which don’t live around Townsville” and I’m doing it again now.

Wattlebirds are the Southern equivalent of our Friarbirds: big, noisy, gregarious (and often aggressive) honeyeaters. The Red and Yellow are the largest of five species at 38-48 and 31-39cm respectively; the Yellow (Anthocaera paradoxa) is restricted to Tasmania but the Red (A. carunculata) occupies a broad coastal arc from Shark Bay in the West to Brisbane.

wattledird on bottlebrush
Yellow Wattlebird in a South Hobart garden

Red Wattlebird in a Brunswick garden

Keen-eyed observers will have already noticed that the birds are not actually red or yellow at all. Their common names, in fact, apply to their wattles so that, grammatically, they should be “red-wattle birds” and “yellow-wattle birds.”

But the logic of common names is erratic at best. Take the ibis, for example: we have two common species, one mostly white and the other mostly black, but just look at their common names. Or the Black-faced Cuckooshrike, which has a white belly, and the White-bellied Cuckooshrike.


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