Varied sitella

Varied sitella
Daphoenositta chrysoptera
Photo by Julian Robinson (Oz Animals)

Common name:
varied sitella (en); trepadeira-austral-variável (pt); néositte variée (fr); neosita variable (es); spiegelkleiber (de)

Order Passeriformes
Family Neosittidae

The varied sitella is widespread in mainland Australia and also found in Papua-New Guinea.

These birds are 10-14 cm long and weigh 13 g.

In Australia they are found in eucalypt woodlands and forests, preferring rough-barked trees like stringybarks and ironbarks or mature trees with hollows or dead branches. In New guinea they are only found in rainforests.

Varied sitellas glean the trunks and branches of trees in search of insects and other arthropods, namely weevils, ladybirds, leaf beetles, click beetles, spiders and true bugs. They are also known to take beetle and moth larvae, grasshoppers, termites, wasps, bees and, occasionally, ants.

These birds breed in June-April. They usually breed cooperatively, with the breeding pair having several helpers. They nest is a deep open cup, like a cone, of bark and spider web, decorated on the outside with long pieces of bark, camouflaged to look like the fork or branch where it is placed. There the female lays 2-3 eggs, which she incubates alone for 13-20 days while being fed by the breeding male and helpers. The chicks are fed by both parents and the helpers and fledge 18-20 days after hatching, but remain with their parents for another 2-3 months.

IUCN status – LC (Least concern)
This species has a very large breeding range and is reported to be common in Australia and uncommon or locally common on New Guinea. This population is suspected to be in decline owing to ongoing habitat destruction.

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