Bird of the Week – Strong-billed Honeyeater ~ Ian Montgomery
Newsletter ~ 3-27-13
Still on the subject of Tasmanian endemics, Tasmania has 4 honeyeater that aren’t found on the mainland. We had the Yellow Wattlebird several weeks ago; the other three comprise the Yellow-throated Honeyeater and two of the seven members of the genus Melithreptus : the Black-headed Honeyeater and this week’s choice the Strong-billed Honeyeater.
Melithreptus means ‘honey-fed’ and is like Meliphaga a synonym for ‘Honeyeater’ (the Honeyeater family is Meliphagidae) and most members of the Melithreptus genus feed on nectar to varying degrees. The Strong-billed is different, however, and feeds mainly on insects and other invertebrates. It uses its sturdy bill and relatively strong neck and shoulders to strip bark from tree trunks and branches and to probe coarse bark in search of prey. The bird in the first photo is in a very typical pose. Note the strong feet and long claws adapted for clinging to vertical trunks. Interestingly, there are no treecreepers in Tasmania, and the Strong-billed Honeyeater would appear to have adapted to fill the resulting void. With a length of 15-17 cm/6-6.7 in it is the largest member of the genus.
All the Melithreptus species except the Black-headed have the distinctive white stripe across the back of the head. They all have decorative eye-crescents above the eye and its colour is a field mark for distinguishing the different species, and can be whitish, blue, yellowish or red. You can see that it is whitish in these Strong-billed though it can also be pale blue.
Tomorrow, I’m off to Southwestern Queensland in search of dry-country birds. So I hope to be able to bring you some interesting examples of these in the coming weeks.
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 firstname.lastname@example.org
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And He said to me, Son of man, eat this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it. Then I ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. (Ezekiel 3:3 AMP)
I like the clean lines on that Honeyeater. Simple, but very becoming. Thanks, Ian, for introducing us to another Tazmanian bird. Not sure whats out in the Southwestern Queensland, but I am sure in the weeks to come, we will find out. Humm! Wonder what he will find?
See his other newsletters about the Honeyeaters: