Perfect Pardalotes

Spotted Pardalotes are arguably Australia’s most beautiful, and most remarkable small bird.


Spotted Pardalote (Pardalotus punctatus) – male
1/1600, f/5.6, ISO 1600


I know I’m biased towards birds (as are my lovely readers) but these little guys give me shivers of delight. Their plumage is exquisite. The male, above, has a sprinkling of bright white spots on his head, wings and tail. His back is a soft fawn with dark fringing, his throat is a magnificent yellow. His red rump can’t be seen in this shot but his white eyebrow and overall perfection is obvious.

Spotted Pardalotes have small, stubby bills which are well adapted for digging. Yep, these tiny birds are excellent excavators. If you look closely you’ll see there is some red dirt on his bill where he’s been tunnelling into the bank. Their tunnels are about a metre in length and end with a spherical space which becomes the nesting chamber.


Spotted Pardalote (Pardalotus punctatus) – female
1/2500, f/9.0, ISO 1600

Female Spotted Pardalotes have more muted colours and are sprinkled with yellow spots rather than white ones.

I was concerned about the bird above as her right foot appeared to be injured. Birds often roost with one foot tucked up but after working with the Helmeted Honeyeaters for so long you get used to looking at birds’ feet and checking for lumps and injuries and signs of soreness. When she landed she tried several times to put her foot on the wire but couldn’t sustain the pose which was odd as she was only perching briefly before taking nesting material into the tunnel. When I saw the female next her foot seemed fine, which was a bit confusing. Now I don’t know whether she was fine or whether two females were visiting the area.


Spotted Pardalote (Pardalotus punctatus) – male
1/2500, f/8.0, ISO 1600


Here’s the male with his fine collection of paperbark. It was comical to watch them as they’d take all kinds of nesting material into the tunnel and often exit with bits and pieces of it that weren’t wanted, as though the colour quite didn’t suit the decor – though come to think of it, it must be pretty dark in there. And that thought has made me wonder about their eyesight which must be fantastic or they wouldn’t know where the gaping mouths were that needed feeding, unless they go by sound – so many questions!

Happy birding



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22 comments to Perfect Pardalotes

  • Togram

    One decided to build the tunnel in our potting mix where I volunteer making us work from the other end, hoping we wouldn’t meet till the job was done.

    • lirralirra

      How brilliant, and how scary! I had a pair nest in a 3m pile of super fine mulch, it wasn’t a big enough pile to risk using any until the babies had fledged. It was fascinating to excavate the tunnel after they’d moved on. I hope all stayed well with your little family.

  • John Bond

    Hi Kim.
    Got a copy of ‘Where song began’ by Tim Low yet?
    What a RIPPER of a book, with many startling facts as to Oz birdlife.
    Only read it four times since buying it mid-Winter, since I have other things on my plate like eating, breathing etc.
    Your usual excellent standard of photography. (Yay Pardelotes!)

  • Petalee Colman

    Dear Kim

    Lovely post. They are my favourites too.


  • Neil Mansfield

    Exquisite Kim. It almost makes me want to go back to Victoria early to find nesting Pardalotes for myself, but daughter and grandchildren visiting for a week tomorrow, so I’ll hang around a bit longer. Hope you are fully recovered. These little fellows would perk anyone up. Thanks for sharing.

    • lirralirra

      I hope you’ve been having a wonderful time with your visiting family, and that you get to enjoy lots of pardalotes when you come back to Victoria

  • Marc Newman

    Great photos. I’ve just had a pair of these nesting in a tunnel and judging by the loose soil at the front I don’t think the tunnel could have been anything like a meter in length.
    I had made a box with tunnel entrance (PVC pipe) for them but of course they ignored it, they dug in a bank 2 meters away.
    With regard to feeding the babies in the dark they may use a clever device similar to the Gouldian finches the babies of which I understand have three spots either side of their face and they glow when they are hungry 🙂

    • lirralirra

      Hi Marc, I’ve read about much shorter tunnels and even nests in hanging pots (including EC’s comment below). Maybe it depends on the soil density, among other things. I have a pardalote nesting box here but haven’t seen them looking at it yet, it also has a PVC pipe entrance and was a present from friends who know me well. I’d be happy if the pardalotes nest in it or a couple of metres from it!

      That’s interesting about Gouldian finches … I’ll do a bit of research, thank you.

  • I adore them. A few years ago a pair excavated a hole in a hanging pot on our deck. And successfully raised a family there.
    Miniature perfection.

    • lirralirra

      Your story makes me want to set up a whole string of hanging pots! Can you let me know if there was anything special about your pots that you think attracted them?

      • They started tunnels in three or four before they found one they were happy with. I suspect the ones they rejected were too deep rooted. The eventual winner was a shallow rooted succulent. And us of course watching and marvelling.

        • lirralirra

          That’s really interesting EC. I’m just talking with a fellow photographer on the Ethical Bird Photography page about pardalotes that are attempting to nest in his staghorn and are finding the dense roots a challenge. Could you share an image of your hanging pots one day? I would love to offer more potential nesting sites.

  • Kathleen

    I love these little birds. Thanks Kim for the information about these little birds. I saw a pair with a hole in a little bank and another in a small hole in a large trunk at LaTrobe Sanctuary a couple of weeks ago. Very exciting.

    • lirralirra

      How fantastic to have seen two pairs of nesters. I’m curious about your tree hollow pair as I’ve only seen Striated Pardalotes nest in small hollows rather than in excavated tunnels. One hollow was so tiny that I never would have realised it was there if I hadn’t seen the birds coming and going.

  • Meredith

    Delightful photos. Hard to imagine such delicate little birds excavating. A one meter tunnel is a huge feat!

    • lirralirra

      The first time I saw them nesting was noticing flicks of soil coming from a 3m pile of fine mulch. I was curious so sat and watched them coming and going, and when the nestlings had fledged I carefully excavated the pile, It was fascinating.

  • Alison Moore

    Lovely post Kim, Sp’s are one of my favourites too😀

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