In 1996, the discovery of a Red-capped Flowerpecker on Saibai Island in Torres Strait created a sensation in Australian birdwatching circles. This tiny relative of the Mistletoebird was supposed to occur only in New Guinea, and here it was on an Australian island!
The discovery sent the birding world into a spin. Boatloads of twitchers headed off to this speck in Torres Strait, just a few kilometres off New Guinea's southern coast, in search of more Flowerpeckers. And they found them -- the species is now recorded on the islands with almost monotonous regularity, as it is easy for the little birds to flit to and fro across the short stretch of water into Australian territory.
The Flowerpeckers were undoubtedly on Australian soil, but controversy raged over whether they should be counted on the Australian list, as Saibai, although technically part of Australia, is in ecological terms, part of New Guinea. Wise heads eventually prevailed and the Flowerpeckers were accepted onto the Australian list.
Since then, other wondrous New Guinea species, such as the Collared Imperial Pigeon, the Orange-fronted Fruit Dove and the Papuan Spine-tailed Swift, all new to Australia, have been spied lurking on Saibai and nearby Boigu Island, and though the old argument still simmers, it has all but faded into the background.
The accompanying map shows that the only Australian records of the Red-capped Flowerpecker have only been from islands in Torres Strait: spot it on the map.
If you want to discover more information about this species or any other birds that occur in Australia, just take a little time to explore the Birdata website, or visit the Birds Australia website at www.birdsaustralia.com.au . You never know what you might find.