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NZ Bellbird

Anthornis melanura (Sparrman, 1786)


A medium-sized honey-eater with yellowish-green plumage. They make a beautiful sound, akin to multiple bells chiming and are a beautiful addition to the morning chorus but can also make a shrill repeat high-pitched single note call and rasping noises. They make far more noise than you might imagine from a bird of their size. They have a short curved bill, and slightly forked tail. Adult males are olive green, slightly paler on the underparts, with a head tinted purple; wings and tail blackish. Female are browner with narrow white-yellow stripe across the cheek from the base of the bill, and bluish gloss on top of head. Adults of both sexes have wine-red eyes. Juveniles are similar to females, but with yellowish cheek stripe, brown eyes and lacking the bluish gloss on the head.


Found in native and exotic forest but also anywhere there is nectar for feed, scrub, shelter-belts, gardens,parks. They will feed from nectar feeders in winter in more urban areas. They will be pushed of feeding positions (trees and feeders) by the more aggressive Tui but will themselves push waxeyes off in turn. They are relatively common around Lake Taupo and the abundance of Kowhais in spring makes them easy to spot. Less common in other upper north island urban areas but increased predator control is extending where they are frequently seen. Bellbirds will also feed on insects and spiders, which would appear to be the main food for the young.


This male was photographed on Tree Lucerne (Cytisus proliferus) in spring. Bellbirds move around to follow fresh nectar sources and tree lucerne is a good stop gap in spring before the native Kowhai and Rata type plants begin to flower. A couple of seasons ago a family of bellbirds spent a month in a mountain rata beside my house. They used the abundant supply of nectar from the tree to wean their young. The three juveniles followed them round the tree chirping like squeaky wheels for a number of days before they began feeding for themselves. It was fascinating to watch this and listen to the parents chiming in stereo.

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1 Comment

triggsturner 2 weeks ago

Great to have these guys around your house. Their song is incredible.

Waikato, New Zealand

Lat: -38.66, Long: 175.92

Spotted on Sep 22, 2017
Submitted on Nov 25, 2018

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