It can be a challenge to identify some of the similar looking smaller birds that we find in the Australian bush. Tina and I have a catch all term that we use – “NBB” or nondescript brown bird. As in “Ah yes, that appears to be a NBB, it’s different to that one we saw earlier but no doubt about it. It’s an NBB alright”.
One family of birds that presents such a challenge are the Thornbills. Is it a Striated Thornbill or a Brown Thornbill or maybe even a Weebill?
One day recently I was determined to find out once and for all what type of Thornbill it is that is common around home. So armed with my trusty Birds of Australia app on my phone I set out to unravel the mystery. It was easy to find the birds but difficult to get close enough to clearly identify them and I was getting a little frustrated. Perhaps they were just NBB’s after all. Then I remembered that the app allows you to play the call of the bird which can obviously aid in identification. So, I played the call for the Brown Thornbill but it did not really match what I was hearing from the birds I was watching. Next I played the call of the Striated Thornbill. I was engrossed in what I was doing and was just thinking that the call matched very nicely with what I was hearing when I became aware of something. I was now surrounded by angry, or perhaps even amorous, Striated Thornbills. I don’t speak Thornbill but it was pretty clear now that they were Thornbills of the Striated variety. Now that they were close, literally only about 30cm away, I could clearly see the lined markings that had not been as visible when they were high in the trees. Not wanting to disturb them further, I stopped the sound and they went back to being normal Thornbills and ignored me again.
By the way that IS Striated on the right and Brown on the left. But, of course, you knew that anyway didn’t you?
UPDATE: June 2020
You know what is funny? A helpful reader, Cassie, suggested that I had got these around the wrong way. You know what is absolutely hilarious? She is 100% right! That is BROWN on the right and STRIATED on the left. It took 3 1/2 years for someone to notice the mistake. Thank you Cassie. Mind you it proves my point that NBB’s are hard to identify.