New Holland honeyeater

Phylidonyris novaehollandiae

TAXONOMY

Certhia novaehollandiae Latham, 1790, Port Jackson, New South Wales, Australia. Five subspecies.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Yellow-winged honeyeater, white-bearded honeyeater, white-eyed honeyeater; French: Mélephage de Nouvelle-Hollande; German: Weissaugen-Honigfresser; Spanish: Pájaro Azúcar de Alas Amarillas.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

6.3-7.9 in (16-20 cm); 0.7 oz (20 g). Black head and upperparts, white spots above and below eye. Black wings have yellow at tips. Underparts black under bill fading to white under belly.

DISTRIBUTION

Southwestern Australia and southeastern Australia north to about Brisbane, Tasmania.

HABITAT

Open forest and woodland with dense understory, heathland, mallee heath.

BEHAVIOR

One of the best-studied honeyeaters. They are conspicuous, active, and aggressive. Breeding males defend areas near the nest by perching in conspicuous locations, calling, and chasing intruders. May perform corroborees where up to about a dozen birds gather closely together with much calling and wing fluttering. This may involve intraspecific interaction or be a response to potential predators. Other displays involve spreading the white ear-plumes, holding the bill open, and tail flicking. Show complex but probably mostly local movements in response to pattern of flowering. Calls mostly simple whistles, with stronger calls during corroboree and in response to predators, and a warbling song flight.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Take nectar from a wide range of native plants, including eucalyptus, banksias, heaths, and mistletoes. May defend feeding territories. Insects mostly taken by sallying, although sometimes taken from foliage or bark. Also take manna, lerp, and honeydew.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

May breed at almost any time of year but is mostly concentrated in late winter to spring (July to September) with a secondary peak in autumn in some years and places. Several attempts are made per year. The cup-shaped nest is placed in a low shrub. Clutch size is typically two, sometimes three, and occasionally one egg. Incubation and fledging periods last about 14 days. Parents are occasionally helped by other birds.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened; abundant in many areas.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

A well-known honeyeater in parks and gardens in southern Australia. ♦

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