Black-faced Monarch

grey bird with black face and orange belly
Black-faced Monarch

Another new species of bird in my garden – always a pleasing discovery!

Black-faced Monarchs, Monarcha melanopsis, live all the way down the East coast, so perhaps I should have seen one here before, but whether a bird visits a particular location seems to be a bit of a lottery. Why, for instance, should another garden in my suburb get Dollar Birds frequently when I never get them?

Perhaps I could explain my visitors if I knew more about their preferences. I do know, of course, that native vegetation attracts native birds, that dense shrubbery attracts small birds and that flowering plants attract honeyeaters and (indirectly) anything that eats nectar-feeders, but that’s about as far as my knowledge goes.

This individual was fossicking this afternoon in the line of two-metre-high tangle of hibiscus, croton, golden orchid, ixora and other plants which masks our front fence. It (I can’t say ‘he’ or ‘she’ because the sexes are identical) was kind enough to stay around while I grabbed a camera and took a few quick shots but didn’t stay long enough for a really good portrait; maybe next time.

Monarchs are closely related to flycatchers and in fact the family, Monarchidae, is called “Monarch Flycatchers”. They are all insectivores, as the name suggests. The Black-faced Monarch is similar in appearance and lifestyle to the Leaden Flycatcher, although it’s a little bigger. I was somewhat surprised to learn that the Magpie-lark also belongs to the Monarchidae (they are the only Monarchids which are not arboreal); fantails, such as the familiar Willie-wagtail, are more distantly related.

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