Wattle seeds, along with those of gorse and broom, are popular with bronzewing pigeons, which will often be seen on the ground underneath these plants in late summer.
Pigeons are able to break down the extremely hard outer shell of the seeds to make use of the nutrients inside.
The pigeons have a digestive system that uses small stones in the gizzard to grind the seeds.
These perform a similar function to teeth.
A currawong’s digestive system is not able to crush such seeds.
As far as wattle seeds are concerned, the currawongs seem to eat only blackwoods, which apparently contain some nutrient in the red outer “funicle” surrounding the hard black seed that the birds seek out.
The blackwood seeds are thus spread by currawongs, but not by pigeons.
Most wattles, like the blackwood, form their seeds three or four months after spring flowering, but there are a few that take twelve months.
The wirilda and the lightwood are two others producing mature seeds twelve months after flowering.
These three wattle species produce their flowers later in the season than most others.
The bronzewings will feed underneath the wattles, gorse and broom for several months.
Because of their hard casing, wattle seeds can be viable for 20 years or more after falling.
A scarce and irregular small bird visitor to the Ballarat region is the leaden flycatcher, named for the lead-grey colour of the male.
A pair nesting at Brown Hill have attracted a lot of interest.
In appearance both the male and the female leaden flycatcher are very similar to the male and female satin flycatchers. At Brown Hill the two species are living close together, so the differences between the two can be more clearly appreciated.
The status of the leaden flycatcher in the Ballarat region is not clear.
It has visited and nested a few times, but perhaps it is a regular but un-noticed visitor here in small numbers, missed because of its similarity to the more common satin flycatcher.
The habitats of the two are usually different, with the leaden flycatcher preferring drier sites than the gully-loving satin.
Fortunately, the Brown Hill birds are nesting at about 10 metres high, and are relatively unperturbed by the photographers and observers.
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