The New Holland Honeyeater is July's Bird of the Month.
New Holland Honeyeater
The New Holland Honeyeater is among Australia’s most energetic birds, flying rapidly in and out of tree and shrub foliage, pausing only to perch occasionally on an exposed twig to survey its surroundings.
It is primarily striated black and white (black with some white streaks above, and white with black streaks below). It has a yellow patch on its wings and yellow along both sides of its tail. Its bill is black with distinctive white whiskers coming down from its base. They have a distinguishing white eye with white stripe above, and white patches behind the ear.
This magnificent bird is not to be mistaken with the White-cheeked Honeyeater (Phylidonyris niger), while having very similar appearance and behaviour, has dark eyes and a large white cheek patch instead of separate tufts of facial feathers and is unlikely to be seen in the Parklands.
The New Holland Honeyeater ranges through eastern and southern Australia, from southern Queensland to Tasmania and South Australia, with an isolated population in south-west Western Australia. They are most commonly found in coastal regions, extending inland across the mountain ranges, particularly in their southern range, from coastal heaths to eucalypt woodlands, urban parks and gardens.
Honeyeaters have an energy-rich diet of nectar from flowers that fuels their active lifestyle. Banksias, Grevilleas and Acacias are a favoured source of nectar, and the popularity of these as decorative plants will attract them to our parks and gardens, as well as eucalypt species when in flower. They also feed on Lerps, the sugary excretions of psyllids — a parasitic insect that feed on gum leaf sap.
Their high energy and territorial aggression help them to exploit these resources amongst larger nectar-feeders such as Wattlebirds and Lorikeets, while driving away smaller rivals.
To supplement their diet with protein, they consume insects and spiders, including the psyllids that create the sugary lerp casings, in their foraging. They also sometimes catch insects in active aerial chases.
New Holland Honeyeaters’ nesting is matched to peak flowering, usually in spring or autumn. They form monogamous pairs for breeding. Generally, the female builds a cup nest of grass and bark bound together with spider web, anywhere from ground level to 6 metres, then incubates two or three eggs for around two weeks.
The male defends the nest and food resources of their territory. The male is believed to feed at the outer edges of the territory leaving the nectar nearer the nest for the female. Both adults share in feeding the chicks who leave the nest after about another two weeks.
A pair may nest two or three times a season depending on the abundance of food and the weather conditions.
In the Park:
Over recent decades New Holland Honeyeaters appear to have become less common in the Parklands, although they are still common on the nearby coastal heaths by the cliffs and beaches. They are most often found in the southern part of the Centennial Park, from the southern side of Randwick and Busby Ponds, across the Mission Fields and along the Kensington Ponds. Watch for the black, white and yellow colours as the flash rapidly between flowering Banksias and Eucalypts.
Photo Credit: Tony Spira