Pimelea Linifolia Descriptive Essay

Pimelea linifolia

Distribution:Widespread in all states except Western Australia and the Northern Territory
Common Name:Slender riceflower.
Derivation of Name:Pimelea; from Greek pimele, soft fat, presumably referring to the oily seeds or fleshy cotyledons.
linifolia; having leaves like those of the genus Linum.
Conservation Status:Not considered to be at risk in the wild.

General Description:

Pimelea is a genus of about 80 species, most of which are Australian but some also occur on islands to the north and in New Zealand. Most are shrubs but some annual species are found in tropical areas. The name "rice flower" has been applied to many members of the genus, a few of which are cultivated to a limited extent.

Pimelea linifolia
Photo: Jill Dark

Pimelea linifoliaia is probably the best known member of the genus due to its wide range. It is a small, erect shrub to about 1 metre high with linear leaves to about 15mm long. Flowers occur in globular clusters at the ends of the branches and are usually white but very pale pink forms are sometimes seen. The species occurs on a range of soils from sands to clays.

Slender riceflower is an attractive small plant which is occasionally cultivated. It can be difficult to maintain under garden conditions and, for best results, it should be propagated from clones native to the areas where it is to be grown. It is best planted in well drained soils in a protected position.

Seed is not often available and germinates unreliably. Cuttings are successful but the percentage strike may be well below 100%.

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Image warning:  This post contains several images of a road-killed bird.

My reason is to record the fact of  this species existence in the area.

But if you find such images unpleasant, please skip tonight's post and please come back to my Blog again tomorrow night. 




My friend Kirsten rang me yesterday in a state of high confusion and high excitement, about an unusual bird she had found as a road kill, at Calderwood, near Albion Park.

Her confusion and her excitement turned out to be fully justified.

It turned out to be an immature Pacific Baza (the so-called "Crested Hawk") It is formally known as Aviceda subcristata. Unfortunately this bird was somewhat damaged and had been damaged on the back of the head (so no crest was evident), and it had lost most of its tail feathers.

On its supposed distribution, the easily searchable sources say: "The Pacific Baza is found in tropical and subtropical forest and woodland in northern and eastern Australia, but rarely south of Sydney." (Source: Birds in Backyards). So, at first we ruled out the Pacific Baza as an option (as to what species we were dealing with)..

Just a word of explanation, it is often surprising how hard it can be to recognise an unfamiliar bird species when one finds one "out of context" such as a road kill.We are simply not used to seeing these things up close and personal. Of course, there is another factor, many species of Birds of Prey undergo significant changes in plumage. In this case, I first thought it might have been a juvenile Brown Goshawk, which are famous for having strong markings on the chest. This turned out to be a red herring  for me, in trying to work out what it was. 

Moral for the day: Just because the references say some bird ought not be where you are does not mean it is not that species. Global Warming (and also changed land use) are clearly changing the distribution of certain species.I mention here two species - the Noisy Pitta, which I have reported from Berrima, NSW (way out of its normal range) and the Rainbow Lorikeet, which has undergone an explosion of its range along the east coast of Australia in the last 20 years. 

Please also see the note below about the Birdata mapping tool to which I was referred by Martin.

Back to the bird in the hand.

Pacific Baza - head with caterpillars in beak (its last meal)

I sought assistance in identifying this bird from the Canberra Ornithologists Group email forum.Part of what was puzzling me is the fact that this bird had clearly been eating caterpillars, probably of grass moths. Such a diet would appear unusual for a Goshawk, as seemingly it had been eating from the ground, not catching its prey on the wing.But the same comment might equally well apply to the Baza.

Anyway, one of the COG people suggest that perhaps my "supposed Goshawk" might in fact be a Pacific Baza.With that thought having been raised, I reviewed the evidence.

What about it supposedly being out of range"?

Unlike what was reported on the Birds in Backyards site, it turns out that Pacific Bazas have been recorded from the Illawarra Region. In fact, near by at Tullimbah.OK - so the Pacific Baza theory is no longer out of the question.

I started to look more closely.

Check out the diagonal nostril line - an unusual feature.

I checked out what the nostril of Goshawk looks like. Geoffrey Dabb has a wonderful shot of  a Brown Goshawk (on the COG Bird Image Gallery) which clearly shows that it has a round nostril hole. OK - so that confirms it is definitely not a Brown Goshawk.

What else can I check out? 

The legs are worth looking at.

Feet and legs are grey; under-tail coverts are pale chestnut colour

Lets look more broadly. The underwings have this colour (which I had previously overlooked). Silly me. 

Under-wing colour and black and white marking on wing tips

Here is the image of a Pacific Baza in flight, from Simpson and Day - "Field Guide to the Birds of Australia" (6th edition).It is blindingly obvious to me - now - that what I have is a Pacific Baza. 

Simpson and Day - illustration of Pacific Baza in flight.

Suddenly it all becomes clear. It is the difference between seeing the details and the overall picture.

The throat colour of my bird is not grey - because it is not an adult - it is immature.

Let me put on record the assistance of several members of the COG chat line,and my Blogging colleague, Martin referring to the HANZAB guide, for sorting out some of these finer details.


Since posting that original Blog item on 28 July, I have followed up a suggestion from a COG member, Philip Veerman, to try to get better images of the beak. He has some experience with this species and told me that a Pacific Baza has a distinctive "double tooth" structure on the beak.

That turned out to be absolutely accurate, and a lovely diagnostic point to confirm the ID by (apart from the unusual shaped nostril already mentioned).

Detail of the beak of the Pacific Baza. Note the double "teeth" notches.
Oh, for the record, yes the dead Pacific Baza had 7 Caterpillars in its beak at the time a car hit it.
7 grass-feeding caterpillars found in the beak of the Baza.
Bazas are well known to be insectivorous. My Blogging colleague, and retired CSIRO Entomologist, Dave Rentz tells me Bazas favour Stick insects found in tree canopies, mostly. And further, he notes that, in the tropics, Lizards and Tree Frogs are also popular food items, normally.
However, these caterpillars are almost certainly grass feeding caterpillars, most likely of the Moth family Noctuidae. I am seeking assistance with confirmation of the caterpillar ID.
If I am correct in them being grass-feeding caterpillars, then obviously such grubs are only found from the ground, by searching closely amongst the lush grasses.
It could not have been flying to pick out these caterpillars from within grass leaves. And surely it would not have achieved catching 7 as yet undigested caterpillars, if flying.
The bird was found adjacent to lush dairy farming country in a district known as Calderwood, close to Albion Park.

So if nothing else that tells us something interesting about the feeding habits of the Pacific Baza.

Another note of interest, another Blogging colleague, Martin, who is also a fellow member of the COG Chat Line helped me greatly by resolving the accurate distribution (range) of the Pacific Baza. He referred me to this site: Birdata - Atlas Distribution Maps. Note: It is "birdata" not bird data. Type in Pacific Baza. 

Obviously you can use any recognised name for Australian birds. The search is not even case sensitive, which is good. It also suggests options, eg, to test it, I typed in Starling, and it offered me 6 alternative species to select from.

I strongly recommend you visit that site and then "Bookmark it" or save it to your "Favourites".

I often comment on how I greatly appreciate collaboration in getting IDs of unfamiliar species, be they plants or moths, or in this case, birds. I have mentioned a number of collaborators in this "quest" by name, above. Kirsten, Geoffrey, Martin and Philip. There were other suggestions and comments offered too along the way. Thanks to them all.

Long may the spirit of collaboration reign - sharing of knowledge is a great gift. 

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