Friday, 17 July 2009

A tale of two honeyeaters

As soon as anything evenvaguely resembling a piece of fruit appears in the vicinity of a Lewin's honeyeater (Meliphaga lewinii), the bird is onto it. If you're having breakfast outside, don't leave it unattended. Honeyeaters are very quick. When feeling particularly adventurous, they'll fly into the house and raid the fruit bowl, leaving beak-shaped holes as evidence of their activity. I've seen it happen.

Two other Australian species of honeyeaters look very similar to the Lewin's. Both the graceful (M. gracilis) and yellow-spotted (M. notata) are olive and grey with pale yellow ear tufts, but are distinguished on the shape of the tufts, their body form, call and demeanour. Remember that I am the second worst bird watcher in the world, so telling them apart is something that other people do. Several other species of yellow-tufted Meliphaga honeyeaters occur throughout New Guinea. Bad bird-watchers to the north have got no chance!

According to Pizzey, Macleay's honeyeater (Xanthotis macleayana) is 'often untidy; likened to a scruffy Regent Honeyeater'. Well, other people's honeyeaters may be a bit tatty, but mine are well-feathered and stylish. No, really. They have a particularly pleasing symmetrical pattern of black streaks on the tum, which this bird refused to reveal for the camera. These pics don't do justice to these handsome and not at all dishevelled honeyeaters.

Macleay's is the most highly-coloured of the Xanthotis honeyeaters, a small genus found in FNQ and New Guinea. One other species, the rather less flamboyant tawny-breasted honeyeater (Xanthotis flaviventer) is found on Cape York Peninsula and also occurs across New Guinea. Both species share the apricot-coloured patch around the eye.


mick said...

I like the way you have caught the light in the bird's eye in the first couple of photos and the eye is a blue color. Beautiful!

Snail said...

Thanks. Sometimes they cooperate! I was thinking that if I get the time, I might try painting portraits of some of these birds.

NanaJude said...