Mistletoe is an integral part of many holiday decorations, but without a specific bird, this holiday greenery might be much more difficult to find. Meet the mistletoebird!
Mistletoebird Fun Facts
- The mistletoebird (Dicaeum hirundinaceum) is also known as the Australian flowerpecker because it is the only flowerpecker species found in Australia, and is also called the moonidjidong, which is its Aboriginal name. Other names include the fire-breasted flowerpecker and mistletoe flowerpecker.
- These birds eat mistletoe almost exclusively, and have no problem with the toxicity of these berries. As the seeds pass through its gut and are excreted in feces, more mistletoe plants will take root.
- The mistletoebird’s gut is uniquely evolved to quickly pass the berries through digestion so the seeds are still viable to germinate after being excreted. There is no gizzard to grind up the seeds, and it can take as little as just 4-25 minutes from the time a mistletoebird swallows a berry before the seed is excreted in feces.
- Mistletoe birds have stickier feces than most other birds. This allows excreted seeds to more strongly bond with the plants where they are deposited, increasing the chances that a new plant will grow.
- Like hummingbirds and a number of other small bird species, mistletoe birds will enter a state of torpor in extreme cold, lowering their body temperature to conserve energy.
- These birds are fairly good mimics, and have been recorded as imitating the calls and songs of more than two dozen other songbirds, as well as the mulga parrot.
Adding the Mistletoebird to Your Life List
These birds are relatively common within their range anywhere mistletoe is abundant, though they can be challenging to see. Their tiny size means they may be easily overlooked, and they often stay high in the forest canopy where leaves and branches help conceal them. Where mistletoe is plentiful, however, the birds can become more bold, and may even come to yards, parks, and gardens where the plant is available. While they do not generally migrate, they are more nomadic in winter as they seek out the best food supplies.
Learn More About Mistletoebirds
Get more information about mistletoebirds with these great resources…
- BirdLife International: Full, interactive range map for the species
- Birds in Backyards: Brief informational profile of the mistletoebird
- iNaturalist: Extensive and diverse mistletoebird photo gallery
- YouTube: Animal Planet video about these birds and how they poop
- Xeno-Canto: 50+ recordings of mistletoebird songs and calls