The Bank Australia Conservation Reserve is home to the charismatic Hooded Robin, a tiny bird that looks like a feathered medieval executioner: the male has a black ‘hood’ covering its head and back, leaving a bright white chest and shoulders and whiskered bill exposed. The female is not so dramatic—more brownish-grey. Like all robins, the male is a tiny model, showing off his front and then turning his back and pouting over his shoulder to check that you have admired his plumage while the female discreetly looks for insects.
Hooded Robins feed by pouncing on insects from a vantage point such as a branch or stump. For this reason they prefer open woodland with structural diversity. This means having trees—eucalyptus and pine—open shrubs, short grasses and timber littered around to promote insect habitat. The Bank Australia Conservation Reserve provides a safe haven of large open woodlands which is perfect for Hooded Robins.
They need large, intact areas of up to 30ha to have sufficient habitat to feed and nest. Habitat like this is declining across Victoria, resulting in the decline of Hooded Robins which have reduced to about a quarter of their previous distribution. The birds breed from July to November and have two to three broods of up to three eggs. Fortunately for them, raising young isn’t a job they have to do alone—other Hooded Robins can come in and help feed and raise the young.
Grassy weeds that cover feeding grounds threaten the birds’ habitat and they’re not particularly fond of the native Noisy Miner, which can also drive them out of their habitat. It’s a good idea to resist the urge to ‘clean up’ bush areas, leave timber on the ground so it can decay and provide homes for and food for insects, which in turn provides food for birds such as Hooded Robins. They are also susceptible to cats because they forage and nest less than five metres from the ground.
Fire has also affected the birds because the regrowth can be too thick for Hooded Robins to forage in.
One of the main goals of this project is to re-connect natural areas of the landscape and in doing so allow movement of species in the face of climate change. By protecting and re-instating important wetland and woodland environments the Bank Australia Conservation Reserve is significantly contributing to this landscape vision.
Photo credit: Chris Tzaros