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Australian chats

Australian chats are small birds that range in length from 4.


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Although they are classified as honeyeaters, White-fronted Chats do not feed on nectar. Instead, they run along the ground feeding on insects. However, they have the same brush-tipped tongues as other members of their family.

Behavior and reproduction

Male White-fronted Chats have a white face, breast and belly, dissected by a distinctive black band across the breast that extends around to the back of the head. Females have similar markings but they are gradations of grey-brown, rather than black-white, and the breast band is narrower.

Immatures are similar to the female, but the breast band is very faint or missing. The White-fronted Chat lives in salt marsh and other damp, open areas with low vegetation such as swampy farmland and roide verges.

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Sometimes occurs on beaches and the edges of lakes. Mostly sedentary, although there may be some nomadic movements, particularly in the drier areas of its range. White-fronted Chats often forage in flocks of around 20 birds that congregate in areas where there are temporary outbreaks of insects.

Physical characteristics

They run along the ground, picking up small insects, usually less than 5 mm long. Midges, kelp-flies, plant bugs and beetles are popular food items. White-fronted Chat males and females form pairs towards the end of winter, while they feed in flocks.

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They sometimes nest in loose colonies, with nests as close as 5 m to each other. Males defend a small nest-site territory, but not necessarily for a whole breeding season. Second clutches will often be laid in locations that are different from earlier nests. Males follow their mates closely, during their fertile period, watching them from prominent perches, and chasing any males that may approach them.

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Only the female builds the nest guarded closely by the male at all timesbut both sexes take equal roles in incubation and feeding of the young. One of the earliest records of White-fronted Chats in the Australian Museum's collection is a study skin that was collected in June from Homebush in Sydney.

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The species originally had a wide distribution in the Sydney region, with records scattered across about 54 localities. However, their Sydney distribution is now restricted to two small populations living in wetlands in Botany Bay and the Parramatta River. The latter population will almost certainly become extinct within the next few years. Draining and filling of swamps for housing has eliminated much of the habitat of this species in areas of high human population density.

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The species remains common in farmland and coastal wetlands. The Australian Museum respects and acknowledges the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation as the First Peoples and Traditional Custodians of the land and waterways on which the Museum stands.

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Identification Male White-fronted Chats have a white face, breast and belly, dissected by a distinctive black band across the breast that extends around to the back of the head. Habitat The White-fronted Chat lives in salt marsh and other damp, open areas with low vegetation such as swampy farmland and roide verges. Seasonality Mostly sedentary, although there may be some nomadic movements, particularly in the drier areas of its range.

Physical characteristics

Australian chats and diet White-fronted Chats often forage in flocks of around 20 birds that congregate in areas where there are temporary outbreaks of insects. Communication Short 'tangs' sounding like a plucked rubber band. Breeding behaviours White-fronted Chat males and females form pairs towards the end of winter, while they feed in flocks. Breeding Season: August to January. Economic impacts One of the earliest records of White-fronted Chats in the Australian Museum's collection is a study skin that was collected in June from Homebush in Sydney.

White-fronted Chats are not found in urban habitats. References Morcombe, M. Field guide to Australian Birds.

Crimson chat (epthianura tricolor): species

Steve Parish Publishing. Major R. Flocking and feeding in the white-fronted chat Ephthianura albifrons : the relationship between diet, food availability and patch selection. Australian Journal of Ecology 16 : Major R. Breeding biology of the white-fronted chat Ephthianura albifrons in a saltmarsh near Melbourne.

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Emu 91 : Major R. Australian Journal of Zoology. Back to top. Search website Submit Search. Close Modal Dialog.

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