Parkside, Australia

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Noisy minor in Adelaide parklands, South Australia ready to attack during a dog walk.

The noisy miner (Manorina melanocephala) is a bird in the honeyeater family, Meliphagidae, and is endemic to eastern and south-eastern Australia. This miner is a grey bird, with a black head, orange-yellow beak and feet, a distinctive yellow patch behind the eye and white tips on the tail feathers.

Described as “always at war with others of the feathered kind” in early notes, the noisy miner is one of the most aggressive of the honeyeaters. Much of the activity within a noisy miner colony is antagonistic with chasing, pecking, fighting, scolding, and mobbing occurring frequently throughout the day. The birds unite to attack predators and to defend the colony area against all other species of birds; the species is also highly aggressive intraspecifically.

Female noisy miners are aggressive towards each other, and one cause of a male-biased sex-ratio in colonies may be the females’ greater intolerance for each other, driving immatures out of the colony and preventing the immigration of new females. Aggression at the nest is common between males. Adult males begin attacking juveniles when they are around 11 weeks old, and attackers can include males that previously cared for the fledgling. Adult females are less aggressive towards young birds, although mothers do occasionally attack their own offspring, and infanticide has been recorded. There is little male to female aggression other than the ‘driving flights’ that form part of the mating ritual. In direct attacks of young birds pecks are directed at the eye patch. Agonistic behaviour has been observed among nestlings, with aggression intensifying after fledging and at times resulting in the death of a sibling.

The noisy miner colony unites to mob inter-specific intruders and predators. The noisy miner will approach the threat closely and point, expose eye patches, and often bill-snap. Five to fifteen birds will fly around the intruder, some birds diving at it and either pulling away or striking the intruder. The mobbing continues until the intruder remains still, as with a tawny frogmouth (Podargus strigoides), or it leaves the area. Mobbing of snakes and goannas is particularly intense, and most species of bird, even non-predators, entering the territory are immediately chased. The noisy miner has been recorded attacking an Australian owlet-nightjar (Aegotheles cristatus) during the day, grebes, herons, ducks and cormorants on lakes at the edge of territories, crested pigeons (Ocyphaps lophotes), pardalotes, and rosellas. Non-predatory mammals such as bats, cattle, sheep, and wallabies are also attacked, though less vigorously than birds.

Noisy miner attacks are not limited to chasing the intruder, and aggressive incidents often result in the death of the trespasser. Reports include those of two noisy miners repeatedly pecking a house sparrow (Passer domesticus) at the base of its skull and killing it in six minutes; one noisy miner grasping a striated pardalote (Pardalotus striatus) by the wing while another pecked it on the head until it died; and a sacred kingfisher (Todiramphus sanctus) being chased and harassed for over five hours and then found dead with a fractured skull.

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Artwork Comments

  • Bunny Clarke
  • indiafrank
  • billfox256
  • indiafrank
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