One or more species occurs everywhere in Australia, except in extensive grassland with no trees and shrubs. The greatest diversity of species occurs in eastern Australia, where many habitats occur close together, and in the rainforests of New Guinea. Tasmania has four endemic species, all with fairly clearly identifiable relatives in mainland Australia. A few species that are widespread in New Guinea have a toehold in extreme north Queensland. Within New Guinea there is a changeover of species with altitude. Sulawesi has three hon eyeaters and Timor has six, with from one to four species elsewhere on each Lesser Sunda or Moluccan islands.

Two of the honeyeaters in New Zealand are quite widespread in native vegetation and less commonly in modified vegetation. The other species is restricted to offshore islands. New Caledonia, Bougainville and Kadavu Island in the Fiji group all have endemic honeyeaters. All of the main Hawaiian islands once had honeyeaters, but most are extinct.

The two species of sugarbirds are found in a limited area of southern Africa.

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