Lemon-bellied Flycatcher – A Pinnacle of Avian Elegance
Habitat: Lemon-bellied Flycatcher (Microeca flavigaster) habitat is forests across tropical northern Australia. It can be found in the semi-moist areas of paperbark Melaleuca, eucalypt and mangrove woodlands, and tropical rainforests. Birds rarely cover more than 20-30 meters on each feeding sortie, and they usually perch one to eight meters above the ground. In general, Lemon-bellied Flycatchers are sedentary birds, rarely moving beyond their breeding territories regardless of the season. They circle up among the canopy of trees, sometimes even flying over it, before diving back into cover. Display birds have a conspicuous song flight. Both during and after breeding, the birds sing often from perches in the forest, with daily peaks early in the morning and late in the afternoon. The flycatcher forages regularly on the ground in the Kimberley, where it is confined to dense stands of mangroves subject to regular tidal flooding. The fluttering technique of the bird is to perch and pounce on prey, such as crabs, other marine animals, and insects.
Vocalization: The call is clear, bouncy Chauncey Chauncey or chickup, possibly in contact or alarm, by maybe both sexes. The Lemon-bellied Flycatcher song is a sweet clear series of rising and falling whistled notes chew chew- swee-so-wee-chew, repeated with frequent variations.
Diet: From a set bare horizontal perch, or individually or in pairs, it hawks silently and leisurely out in search of insects, such as flying beetles, ants, flies, and grasshoppers. It typically returns to the same perch to eat, sometimes in the same place. At rest, it does not wave its tail like theJacky Winter.
Identification: Both sexes are similar. Upper parts are mid-citrine-brown, slightly greyer overhead in Arnhem Land and eastern Queensland, or uniformly browner with olive wash on the back in the Kimberley. Wings and tail brown, the outer webs of feathers tinged with citrine, and tail feathers narrowly tipped off-white. Throat and brow-line off-white washed yellow on Cape York Peninsula. The rest of the underparts are lemon-yellow tinged olive on the breast or, in Kimberleys, white-ringed grey over the breast. Eyes are dark brown. The upper mandible is dusky, lower greyish brown with a flesh-colored base. The feet are dusky. The immature bird is duller than adults, molting out while-lipped primary coverts of juveniles lase, as second annual molt. Juveniles olive-brown above, coarsely spotted cream, giving a streaked appearance, while below, mottled brown on throat and breast Bill and feel huffy-brown.
Distribution: Lemon-bellied Flycatchers are found in wetter woodlands, open forests, and mangroves of coastal and subcoastal northern Australia, from Broome, Western Australia, to Broad Sound, Queensland. Restricted to mangroves in the Kimberleys, absent from mangroves and dry heads of Gulf of Carpentaria, Qld, and rarely in rainforest anywhere. Also wooded grasslands in New Guinea.
Races: By convention, the Lemon-bellied Flycatcher is represented by three yellow-green races in Australia: one small with a whitish throat and brow in Arnhem Land and the western Gulf of Carpentaria; another larger with the same coloring in eastern coastal Queensland north to the foot of Cape York Peninsula; and a third with a yellowish throat and brow on Cape York Peninsula itself (and southern New Guinea). To them, recent research has added a fourth: a brown-backed, white-bellied population in the Kimberley mangroves. The Kimberley population was formerly treated as a separate species – Brown-tailed or Kimberley Flycatcher – but it intergrades with the green-backed, lemon-bellied race from Arnhem Land in mangroves around Cambridge Gulf, at Wyndham, with a full range of intermediates. There are five races; four in Australia.
Nest & Breed: Both sexes are likely to incubate and build nests, building nests so small and well camouflaged that they appear as little more than an obscure hump attached to the branch. When sitting, birds may fluff their feathers to hide the nest completely. Breeding and nesting occur between August and January, rarely much later. A nest is a shallow cup of bark strips and fibers bound with cobwebs, covered in patches with bark scales and dried leaves to camouflage them. Nests are lined with bark fiber and grass; attached to small horizontal branches, usually at a fork, usually 2-10 meters above ground, often over water.
Eggs & Incubation: One egg is laid by this flycatcher which is off-white ringed blue-grey, spotted and blotched all over with chestnut to olive-brown and underlying lavender, often forming irregular zones at larger end. It is long-oval, about 19 x 14 mm in size. It is likely that both sexes are involved in the incubation process.
Family: The lemon-bellied flycatcher is a species of bird in the family Petroicidae.
Flight: In flight, the bird is buoyant, fluttering, with rounded wings, hovering often.
Alternative Names: The bird is also known as Lemon-breasted Flycatcher, Brown-tailed Flycatcher, Lemon bellied flyrobin, and Kimberley Flycatcher.