Lerps On Acacias At Argyle

On many occasions in June 1996, I observed a few species feeding on the footpath outside my office at the Argyle Diamond mine in the Kimberley.  The footpath is underneath some tallish (about 6 metre) acacia trees (I don’t know the exact species).

On close inspection, I saw that they were feeding on a yellowish pollen like substance on the ground.  I then checked the acacia leaves, and on the back of almost every leaf were very small (about 1mm) insects, or very small brown lumps in the leaf, or small yellow crystals.  I believe that these are lerps, although previously I had only read about lerps on eucalypts (especially in the east where there are Bell Miners).

Apart from being the first time that I had found lerps, my interest was drawn by the birds feeding on the footpath.  At various times during the day (not so much in the morning), there were Yellow-throated Miners (up to 10 although the last two were chased off by the others), Black-faced Woodswallows (up to 10), Grey-fronted Honeyeaters (at least 2) and Rufous-throated Honeyeaters (at least 10).  They nearly always tended to be groups of a single species as the larger species would usually chase off the smaller species.  No species was ‘resident’ so they all got a turn.

Every species only fed on the footpath (as well as the foliage) rather than in the garden next to the path.  I guess that the lerps are harder to find in the garden or that the bird would pick up too much soil, etc.  Every species fed by putting their head on the side and picking up the food with the side of their bill rather than with the point or their tongue.

The Yellow-throated Miners and Grey-fronted Honeyeaters are regular daily visitors outside my office every day of the year.  The Black-faced Woodswallows are always present close by, but they don’t often come outside my office (especially as many as ten).  The Rufous-throated Honeyeaters are common in the area (and the Argyle village) but they are uncommon outside my office except for one or two months of the year.

Brown Honeyeaters are usually also very common, but I have only seen one or two outside my office this commute and none feeding on the ground.  Magpie-larks are very common near my office and often feed on the footpath but not this commute.  I have seen a White-winged Triller a couple of times this commute feeding in the acacias but not on the ground, although I have seen as many as nine outside my office.  They are very common in the area and they frequently forage on the ground.  There are currently two or three Mistletoebirds almost resident outside my office in the acacias.  They mostly feed in the mistletoe that has grown in the last two years, but I have observed them foraging through the rest of the acacia probably feeding on the lerps.  In the past, I have seen Red-browed Pardalotes in the acacias outside my office, and I have been told that pardalotes (particularly Striated which also occur at Argyle) are very partial to lerps.

The acacias also have cocoons (about 5cm long) attached to the foliage sometimes (including a few now).  These appear to be covered with the bark from the tree.  These cocoons are very popular with the Little Corellas that are very common in the area.

Copyright Frank O'Connor 1997-2002 Visits Last Modified 31st January 2002