Family Sittellas (Neosittidae)

Least Concern

Varied Sittella (Daphoenositta chrysoptera)


French: Néositte variée German: Spiegelkleiber Spanish: Neosita variable

Sitta chrysoptera


, 1801,

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


Previously placed in Neositta#R. Commonly treated as conspecific with D. papuensis (which see). Races in past treated as five separate species, but each hybridizes and backcrosses with adjacent races. Described form albata, known only from 19th-century specimens from E Queensland, is considered an intergrade. Other proposed races are rothschildi (NE Queensland S to Cairns), magnirostris (Inkerman area of CE Queensland) and lathami (E Victoria), all included in nominate; and lumholtzi (Rockhampton area of CE Queensland) included in leucocephala. Five subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • D. c. leucoptera (Gould, 1840) – CN Australia from NE Western Australia (Kimberley region) E to SE head of Gulf of Carpentaria, S to Great Sandy Desert (in W) and about Tropic of Capricorn (in E).
  • D. c. pileata (Gould, 1838) – C & S Western Australia (N to S Great Sandy Desert) E through S Northern Territory and South Australia to far SW Queensland, W New South Wales and NW Victoria.
  • D. c. striata (Gould, 1869) – NE Australia from Cape York S to Burdekin R, in NC Queensland.
  • D. c. leucocephala (Gould, 1838) – CE Australia from Burdekin R S to Queensland–New South Wales border, and inland to Great Dividing Range.
  • D. c. chrysoptera (Latham, 1801) – SE Australia from SC Queensland S through E New South Wales and E Victoria.
  • Descriptive notes

    10–14 cm, mostly 10·5–11·5 cm; 10–17 g. Short-tailed passerine with highly variable plumage. Male nominate race has forehead and short diffuse... read more


    While foraging, a single “chip” repeated monotonously, sometimes accelerating to... read more


    Occurs in wide variety of dry eucalypt (Eucalyptus) forests and woodlands with shrubby... read more

    Food and feeding

    Insects and other arthropods. Of 992 items in 59 stomachs from NE New South Wales, over one-third (36%) were small adult beetles (... read more


    Season (eggs) throughout range Jul–Apr, peak usually Aug/Sept–Dec/Jan; often second clutch laid after successful fledging of... read more


    Resident; all recoveries of ringed individuals were less than 10 km from site where ringed.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Locally common. Estimated densities 0·1–0·6 birds/ha. Although reporting rates decreased in some bioregions... read more

    Recommended citation

    Noske, R. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Varied Sittella (Daphoenositta chrysoptera). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 19 May 2019).