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Description The Bell Miner is the smallest of the miners and is a medium-large and solidly built honeyeater. It is mostly olive-green, with a short, down-curved, bright yellow bill, a red-orange bare eye patch and orange-yellow feet and legs. It has a squared off tail. Males are slightly larger, but otherwise the sexes are similar. Young birds are duller and browner, with a paler eye patch. More often heard than seen, the Bell Miner lives in large colonies and aggressively defend their territories against all intruders. Also commonly known as Bellbirds. Where does it live? Distribution Endemic to eastern and south-eastern mainland Australia, the Bell Miner ranges from Gympie, Queensland, to Melbourne, Victoria, but is restricted to coastal and mountain regions. Habitat The Bell Miner is found manly in open eucalypt forests and woodlands with a dense shrubby understorey. Found mainly in the temperate zone in broad gullies of foothills or on coastal plains, often at edges of rainforest areas. They are also found in suburban areas, including remnant bushland, parks and gardens, especially around creeks or other water sources (e.g. swimming pools, bird baths), where eucalypts and dense shrubs have been retained. Seasonal movements Sedentary, with colonies usually remaining in same location for many years. Whole colonies will move as result of catastrophe e.g. bushfire or loss of water sources. What does it do? Feeding Bell Miners feed as part of a colony, remaining in the canopy at or above eight metres from the ground. They mainly eat insects, especially psyllids and their lerps (sugary secretions used as protective shelters by the tiny psyllid insects) from the foliage of eucalypts. They also eat nectar and manna. It has been shown that Bell Miners maintain psyllid populations at high levels by protecting them from other birds and by maintaining sufficiently large territories so that they don't over-feed on the psyllids themselves. Breeding Bell Miners have a complex social structure, based on breeding pairs which each have their own feeding range that overlaps with those of non-breeding members (e.g. their offspring), making up a colony of 8 - 200 birds. The breeding pairs generally mate for life and are 'obligate co-operative breeders', which means that they are always helped by between 1 and 20 'auxiliaries' in their parental duties. These helpers are usually young or unpaired birds, but may also include other breeding adults who are also raising their own young. They are usually closely related to the breeding pair, most often to the male. Interestingly, males of breeding age are the most 'helpful' auxiliaries, often helping more than one breeding pair. The helpers defend the nest, feed the young, clean the nest and sometimes feed the female when she is incubating the eggs. Both parents also engage in all nest and feeding duties, but the female builds the thin, cup-shaped nest and incubates the eggs alone. Predators of eggs and young include: Grey Currawongs, Laughing Kookaburras, Common Blackbirds, Brown Goshawks, ravens, Eastern Brown Snake and Copperhead. Can also be parasitised by cuckoos, including the Pallid Cuckoo and the Fantailed Cuckoo.
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