Ian’s Bird of the Week – Fuscous Honeyeater

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Fuscous Honeyeater ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter ~ 10-14-15

Townsville is experiencing one of its driest years on record, with only 258mm/10.2in of rain so far this year, with most of that in January. Farmers feel the effects of the dry the most of course from a human perspective, but the wildlife is suffering too. Any remaining open water whether on farms or in gardens is very popular. My bird bath and pond are visible from the window of my study so I have been watching the variety and abundance of visiting wild- (and feral-) life and keeping an eye out for unusual birds. These include some which here are mainly restricted to highland rainforest such as Macleay’s and Lewin’s Honeyeaters and other dry country species such as the Fuscous Honeyeater, normally found west of the coastal range in North Queensland.

Fuscous Honeyeater (Lichenostomus fuscus) by Ian

This one, here ten days ago on the edge of my bird bath, is the northern race subgermanus. This race has a yellow wash on the face which makes it look rather like the closely related Yellow-tinted Honeyeater, a species I’ll say a bit more about shortly. This northern race occurs between Bowen/Mackay and the Atherton Tableland. Further south the nominate race ranges through the remainder of eastern Queensland, eastern New South Wales and through Victoria as far as about Adelaide in South Australia. The second photo shows an example of the nominate race west of Sydney. Fuscous Honeyeaters have different bill and eye-ring colour in breeding and non-breeding plumage. Non-breeding (and juvenile) birds have yellow bases to the bill and a yellow eye-ring (first photo) while breeding birds have dark bills and dark eye-rings (second photo) – unusual for the breeding plumage to be less colourful.

Fuscous Honeyeater (Lichenostomus fuscus) by IanThe third photo shows a non-breeding (or juvenile) nominate-race individual in Victoria and both the yellow eye-ring and yellow base to the bill show up well. ‘Fuscous’ comes from the Latin for ‘dusky’ while the generic name ‘Lichenostomus’ means ‘lichen-mouth’ or ‘moss-mouth’ in Greek and refers to the brush-like tongues of members of this genus, adapted for feeding on nectar. Compare that with ‘Trichoglossus’ – ‘hair tongue’ – a similar adaptation in Lorikeets of that genus, such as the Rainbow Lorikeet.

Fuscous Honeyeater (Lichenostomus fuscus) by IanThere are five closely related species of Lichenostomus, referred to as a ‘super-species’ which, although they overlap in some places, effectively carve up mainland Australia. The Fuscous as we’ve seen is an eastern and southeastern species; the Yellow-plumed (L. ornatus) occurs along the south coast from Victoria to SW Western Australia; the Grey-fronted (L. plumulus) is an inland and western-coastal species; the White-plumed (L. penicillatus) has a similar range to the Grey-fronted but extends to the coast in Victoria and New South Wales (e.g. suburban Sydney); while the Yellow-tinted (L. flavescens) occurs across northern Australia from NW Western Australia through the Northern Territory to western Cape York in Queensland (fourth photo). There is also an isolated population in south-eastern Papua New Guinea.

In case you’re wondering, subgermanus, the name for the northern race of the Fuscous doesn’t refer to Germany or a taxonomist called Germain. ‘Germanus’ means something like ‘sibling’ in Latin (literally ‘having the same parents’) and is the origin of ‘hermano/hermana’ in Spanish (brother/sister). ‘Sub’ is often used to indicate closeness in taxonomic matters, so subgermanus means something like ‘almost siblings’ and presumably refers to its similarity to the Yellow-tinted. That’s my guess, anyway, as my usual source of such gems, A Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names, OUP, doesn’t delve into races.

Yellow-tufted Honeyeater (Lichenostomus melanops) by IanThe range of the Yellow-tinted comes within about 100km of that of the yellowish northern Fuscous Honeyeater and the two species were formerly lumped into one. Recent studies have shown that although they look similar they don’t intergrade, so treating them as separate species seems justified. In the Yellow-tinted, the yellow base to the bill is a feature of just juvenile birds. All have yellow eye-rings, so there is no difference in appearance between breeding and non-breeding adults.

Fire Chopper by Ian

Fire Chopper by Ian

The dry season is an anxious time in bushland areas of North Queensland and this year particularly so. Last week a fire started beside the Bruce Highway on Saturday 3rd October and travelled the seven kilometres to my place over the next three days and then burned along the dry bed of Bluewater Creek near my house for three days. The last photo shows the bottom of my yard being water bombed on Thursday morning as I was heading down there yet again with a rake. The hill in the background is black all over. All is quiet now and we have the biggest firebreak in the country (at least 11km long covering 24 square kilometres) so I hope we’re probably relatively safe now until the wet season which should start in a couple of months, El Nino permitting. The firemen had some funny stories to tell about their arrival at a nudist colony in a secluded area about 4km west of my place.

Greetings
Ian

**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

My son, eat thou honey, because it is good; and the honeycomb, which is sweet to thy taste:  (Pro 24:13)

Thanks, Ian, for telling more about your amazing Honeyeaters, especially the Fuscous ones. Sound like a bird I would like landing on my bird bath. Though he would have to fly a loooooong way to get here. :)

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Ian’s Bird of the Week

Ian’s Honeyeaters

Meliphagidae – Honeyeaters

Who Paints The Leaves?

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Sunday Inspiration – Honeyeaters

Bridled Honeyeater (Lichenostomus frenatus) by Ian

Bridled Honeyeater (Lichenostomus frenatus) by Ian

How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Psalms 119:103 KJV)

The Meliphagidae – Honeyeaters are another of our beautifully created birds in the Passerine Order to highlight. Thought about changing the sequence because of Palm Sunday, but did Palm Birds previously with Lisa Brock singing from an Easter Musical. The Words of Christ that tell of this week, and they are sweeter than honey to those of us who have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior.

The Lord did not have to stay on the cross, but because of His Love for us, he stayed there and paid the penalty for our sins. He offers us the gift of Salvation, but we have to admit and acknowledge our sinful condition, and accept that gift. Honey is a gift from the Lord for the Honeyeaters, and they could stand and look at it all day, but they need to partake of it to do them any good. Taste comes when they accept it.

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. (John 3:14-19 KJV)

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“Blood of Jesus Medley” ~ Faith Baptist Church Choir

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Meliphagidae – Honeyeaters
Sunday Inspiration
Beautiful Australian Birds 4 – Honeyeaters
Gospel Message

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater (Acanthagenys rufogularis) by Ian

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater (Acanthagenys rufogularis) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater ~ Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 8/20/13

I’m currently preparing photos for a digital version of the book Where to Find Birds in North-East Queensland by Jo Wieneke (http://www.nqbirds.com). I’m finding that many of these have not yet featured as bird of the week, so here’s one that I came across a photo this morning that appealed to me, one of an unusual-looking honeyeater, the Spiny-cheeked, taken not long after sunrise at Gluepot, the BirdLife Australia mallee reserve in South Australia. At the time, I was spending some time each morning at a hide overlooking a drinking trough waiting for Scarlet-chested Parrots http://www.birdway.com.au/psittacidae/scarlet_chested_parrot/index.htm.

The Spiny-cheeked is a bird of dry country, so the easiest way to photograph it is as watering places, and the second photo was taken in Central Queensland south of Torrens Creek near a dam, this time close to sunset. It is a widespread and common in the more arid parts of mainland Australia except tropical Australia north of about 19ºS and Tasmania. It also occurs in scrubby coastal areas, such as southern Victoria. Like many dry-country birds it is nomadic and appears only rarely in Northeastern Queensland, though I did see one in the garden in the first house I lived in Townsville in 2002.

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater (Acanthagenys rufogularis) by Ian

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater (Acanthagenys rufogularis) by Ian

With a length of 23-26cm/9-10in, it’s quite large by honeyeater standards and the bare pink area on the face gives it some similarity to the Wattlebirds, also honeyeaters. Although it is the only member of the genus Acanthagenys, DNA studies have shown that it is related to both the Wattlebirds (Acanthocaera) and the Regent Honeyeater, another one with bare red skin, in this case around the eye. The Spiny-cheeked is quite vocal with a creaky, piping, rather Wattlebird-like song, often the first sign of its presence.

Feedback on the change in font was rather muted, with one in favour of the new one, one against it and one not liking the underlining of the scientific name. I can agree with all points of view and am undecided, though I’m using the new font for photos in the digital version of Jo Wieneke’s book. I’ve rather got used to it, though I’ve started putting the scientific name in grey to make the underlining less obvious as I’m constrained both by the convention of using either italics or underlining for scientific name and the lack of an italic option in an already italic-looking font. My thanks to those who took the trouble to respond.

Jo’s book has been out of print for a little while now, so the digital version is to fill the gap left by its disappearance from book shops. I’ll let you know when it is available: the aim is to publish it for Apple iBooks, Google PlayBooks and Amazon Kindle.

Best wishes
Ian

**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

My son, eat honey because it is good, And the honeycomb which is sweet to your taste; (Pro 24:13 NKJV)

This Honeyeater belong to the Meliphagidae – Honeyeaters Family, which has 184 species. Check out Ian’s photos of this Family.

In addition to what Ian mentioned about the Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Wikipedia had this to say:

The honeyeater is mainly frugivorous, but will also eat nectar, blossoms, insects, reptiles, and young birds. Its habitat includes deserts, coastal scrubland, and dry woodlands. It is also found in mangroves and orchards. Its range includes most of Australia except for Tasmania, tropical Northern areas, the Southeastern coast.

The Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater is a grey-brown bird with a burnt orange throat and chest. It has grey wings edged with white, and a long tail with white tips. It has a pink, black-tipped bill.

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Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater (Acanthagenys rufogularis) ©WikiC

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater (Acanthagenys rufogularis) ©WikiC

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Here is the song of a Spiny-cheeked from xeno-canto.

See:

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New I.O.C. 3.4 Version Complete

Greater Sooty Owl (Tyto tenebricosa) ©WikiC

Sooty Own now the Greater Sooty Owl (Tyto tenebricosa) ©WikiC

The I.O.C released their 3.4 Version of the lists of the Birds of the World and I have been busy behind the scenes again bring Lee’s Birds of the World up to date. Other than needing to change the names of a few photos and finding photos for the new birds now listed with the I.O.C., the pages are finished.

There are now 10,488 extant species and 149 extinct species of birds of the world (Version 3.4), with subspecies (20,984). These birds are Classified into 40 Orders, 231 Families (plus 6 “Incertae sedis” groups – Holding places for birds they are not sure which family to place them in).

Some of the new birds listed are: Pincoya Storm Petrel, Rinjani Scops Owl, Antioquia Wren and they deleted the Green-crowned Woodnymph and the Plain-breasted Earthcreeper. It appears the deletions happen when the birds are placed into a subspecies category.

Violet-crowned Woodnymph now the Crowned Woodnymph (Thalurania colombica) by RScanlon

Violet-crowned Woodnymph now the Crowned Woodnymph (Thalurania colombica) by RScanlon

There were some name changes like
Sooty Owl (Tyto tenebricosa) – now – Greater Sooty Owl
Violet-crowned Woodnymph (Thalurania colombica) – now – Crowned Woodnymph
Black-casqued Wattled Hornbill (Ceratogymna atrata) – now – Black-casqued Hornbill
Yellow-casqued Wattled Hornbill (Ceratogymna elata) – now – Yellow-casqued Hornbill
Western Slaty Antshrike (Thamnophilus atrinucha) – now – Black-crowned Antshrike
Variable Pitohui (Pitohui kirhocephalus) – now – Northern Variable Pitohui
Dark-capped Yellow Warbler (Iduna natalensis) – now – African Yellow Warbler
Red-tailed Rufous Thrush (Neocossyphus rufus) – now – Red-tailed Ant Thrush
White-tailed Rufous Thrush (Neocossyphus poensis) – now – White-tailed Ant Thrush
Sage Sparrow (Artemisiospiza belli) – now – Bell’s Sparrow

Do Species Change?

Yellow-casqued Hornbill (Ceratogymna elata) ©Wiki

Yellow-casqued Wattled now the Yellow-casqued Hornbill (Ceratogymna elata) ©Wiki

The birds are still doing their thing by multiplying and filling the earth as they were commanded to do by God. Most seem to adapt to some area and if not, they move on. Other, who can’t adapt, or have disasters or events occur that may make them go extinct. With over 10,400 plus birds to find on your birdwatching adventures, surely one is out there waiting for you to find it and enjoy the uniqueness of it. Enjoy your next adventure out and about searching for the Lord’s fantastic birds.

Bring out with you every living thing of all flesh that is with you: birds and cattle and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.”
(Genesis 8:17 NKJV)

The biggest challenge was the Taxonomic Update. The Meliphagidae – Honeyeaters  Family was shuffled all around. Not only were they changed around, but they also changed the genus names for some birds, especially those in the Lichenostomus genus. As the ornithologist do more and more DNA testing, they are finding that some are not related or come from a different line with in the family. Keeps me busy.

See:

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Wordless Birds

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Strong-billed Honeyeater

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.

Strong-billed Honeyeater (Melithreptus validirostris) by Ian 1

Strong-billed Honeyeater (Melithreptus validirostris) by Ian 1

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.

Strong-billed Honeyeater (Melithreptus validirostris) by Ian 2

Strong-billed Honeyeater (Melithreptus validirostris) by Ian 2

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.

Strong-billed Honeyeater (Melithreptus validirostris) by Ian 3

Strong-billed Honeyeater (Melithreptus validirostris) by Ian 3

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.

Best wishes
Ian

**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Check the latest website updates:
http://www.birdway.com.au/#updates


Lee’s Addition:

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?

As Ian said, the Strong-billed Honeyeater is part of the Meliphagidae – Honeyeaters Family. Check out his Meliphagidae Family. He has lots of photos of them.

See his other newsletters about the Honeyeaters:

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Yellow Wattlebird

Yellow Wattlebird (Anthochaera paradoxa) by Ian 1

Yellow Wattlebird (Anthochaera paradoxa) by Ian 1

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Yellow Wattlebird ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter ~ 1/31/13

I was going to use some recent photos of the Little Wattlebird as the bird of the week, but then I found that no Wattlebird has featured as BotW so we may as well start with the most spectacular, the Yellow Wattlebird, endemic to Tasmania where it replaces the Red Wattlebird of southern mainland Australia.

Not only is it the largest of the 4 species of Wattlebird but with a length of 37-45cm/14-18in it is the largest member of the Honeyeater family (Meliphagidae) easily out-classing the largest Friarbird the Helmeted (32-37cm). It also has much longer wattles than it cousin the Red Wattlebird. (Neither the Little nor the closely-related Western Wattlebird have wattles.)

Yellow Wattlebird (Anthochaera paradoxa) by Ian 2

Yellow Wattlebird (Anthochaera paradoxa) by Ian 2

It is reasonably common in its native Tasmania, except along the west coast, and also occurs on King Island in Bass Strait. It feeds mainly on nectar but will also take insects and feed on fruit in orchards. The bird in the third photo is probing under bark for insects or grubs.

Yellow Wattlebird (Anthochaera paradoxa) by Ian 3

Yellow Wattlebird (Anthochaera paradoxa) by Ian 3

All the wattlebirds are very noisy and the Yellow is no exception. Pizzey and Knight describe its call as ‘harsh, gurgling, guttural like coughing/vomiting’ and you can’t get much less flattering than that. Some non-birding friends of mine called Wattlebirds near their holiday cottage ‘Yobbo-birds’ (either Red or Little), which appealed to me and, given that two of the species don’t have wattles, seems to me a much better name. So, herewith the Yellow Yobbobird

Best wishes

Ian
**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Check the latest website updates:
http://www.birdway.com.au/#updates


Lee’s Addition:

I know all the birds of the mountains, And the wild beasts of the field are Mine. (Psalms 50:11 NKJV)

What an interesting looking bird. I love those wattles hanging down. Wonder if they get in the way or he swings them to attract a mate? When you check out Ian’s Meliphagidae family page you will see that he has really been busy photographing those in that family. He has at least 70 birds listed. Wow! At present there are 184 species and he has 70 of them.

See:

More of Ian’s Bird of the Week Newsletters

Meliphagidae – Honeyeaters  – Here

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – White-streaked Honeyeater

White-streaked Honeyeater (Trichodere cockerelli) by Ian #1

Ian’s Bird of the Week – White-streaked Honeyeater ~ by Ian Montgomery (Australia)

Newsletter ~ 09/23/11

Of the 4 species at the top of my wanted list on the trip to Iron Range, this one, the White-streaked Honeyeater, took the most effort to find and I found it only at the last possible location on the way home. Many Honeyeaters, including this one, are nomadic in search of flowering shrubs and trees so visiting a known site is no guarantee of success.

The White-streaked Honeyeater occurs only on Cape York Peninsula, north of about Cooktown. So, when I left Daintree village, rather than go the usual route via Julatten, I headed north through Cape Tribulation to Cooktown along the 4WD Bloomfield track, spent a couple of nights near Cooktown and then drove to Laura along Battlecamp Road to join the main Peninsula Development Road. Apart from the attraction of of a route I hadn’t travelled on before, both White-streaked Honeyeaters and Tropical Scrubwrens had been seen in July at a couple of river crossings along the way. Near Cooktown, I did a glimpse and an unflattering rear-view shot of the southern race (dubius) of the Tropical Scrubwren, but the Honeyeaters seemed to have moved on.

White-streaked Honeyeater (Trichodere cockerelli) by Ian #2

Their preferred habitats are heathland, open woodland and riverine forest so they don’t occur in the rainforest at Iron Range. A usually reliable site for them is the heathland at Tozer’s Gap on the way in but this time an orange grevillea was flowering everywhere in abundance, so the birds could have been anywhere. Happily, I caught up with some friends of mine who had just seen the honeyeater in paperbarks and bottlebrushes at the Wenlock River crossing on the same road. This is a 4 or 5 hour round trip from Iron Range, so I decided to risk waiting until my final departure and then I stopped for lunch at the crossing.

White-streaked Honeyeater (Trichodere cockerelli) by Ian #3

When I got there, the paperbarks had finished flowering but the bottlebrushes were still putting on a fine display. Even so, it took some diligent searching before I finally found a couple of White-streaked among the commoner Honeyeaters, mainly Dusky and Graceful. They seemed shy and preferred to remain hidden in the foliage, so I sat on a sandy bank in the river until they showed themselves. They are unusual honeyeaters with no close relatives and the sole member of the genus Trichodere (a ‘monotypic’ genus). ‘Trich’ comes from the Greek word for ‘hair’ and refers, as does ‘white-streaked’ to the bristle-like feathers on the breast (cf Trichoglossus – ‘hairy tongue’ – referring to the brush-like, nectar-licking tongues of Rainbow Lorikeets). Adults have yellow lines below the eye, a yellow ear tuft and a blue gape (photos 1 and 2). They also have yellow wings and tail: easier to see in the third photo of a juvenile which lacks the blue gape and has only a single yellow feather on the head but is beginning to develop the bristle-like breast feathers, also characteristic of adults.
In the second photo, the nest-like material below the bird is flood debris – a clear reminder that this part of the Cape York Peninsula is accessible by road only in the dry-season. The photo below shows the crossing at Wenlock River.
Crossing at Wenlock River by Ian #4

Crossing at Wenlock River by Ian #4

Misión completa, as my guide told me when we found the Resplendent Quetzals in Costa Rica.

Best wishes
Ian


Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: 0411 602 737 +61-411 602 737
Preferred Email: ian@birdway.com.au
Website: http://birdway.com.au


Lee’s Addition:

My son, eat thou honey, because it is good; and the honeycomb, which is sweet to thy taste: (Proverbs 24:13 KJV)

Ian sure has persistence and patience. Ian, thanks again for sharing your birding trips with us.

As Ian mentioned, the Honeyeater is in a genus, Trichodere of the Meliphagidae – Honeyeaters Family. That family has 183 members at present. The family has not only Honeyeaters, but also Friarbirds, Wattlebirds, Bellbirds, Melidectes, Myzas, Myzomela, Straighbills, Spinebills, Chats, and a Gibberbird and others. Roughly half of the family live in Australia.

All 170 species of honeyeaters have a unique adaptation:  a long tongue with a brush-like tip that they use to get nectar from flowers. The tongue can be extended into the nectar about 10 times per second!

See also:
Formed By Him – Plants and Pollinator Birds
Ian’s bird of the Week:
Yellow-spotted Honeyeater
Striped Honeyeater
Banded Honeyeater
Eastern Spinebill
Silver-crowned Friarbird
Helmeted Friarbird
Bar-breasted Honeyeater
Rufous-banded Honeyeater
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Ian’s Bird Of The Week – Yellow-spotted Honeyeater

Yellow-spotted Honeyeater (Meliphaga notata) by Ian

Yellow-spotted Honeyeater (Meliphaga notata) by Ian

Ian’s Bird Of The Week – Yellow-spotted Honeyeater ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 03-13-11

I’ve been working on the Honeyeater galleries on the website recently and a Yellow-spotted Honeyeater showed up outside my house a few days ago, pushing this species into the foreground when I was contemplating the choice of this week’s bird. Bluewater is at the southern end of its range, so it turns up only occasionally and this one is presumably a cyclone Yasi refugee.

It’s very similar to the Graceful Honeyeater, which has an almost identical range from just north of Bluewater (Rollingstone) to Cape York, so they are both North Queensland endemics and, in turn, similar to Lewin’s Honeyeater, which occurs right along the east coast of Australia as far south as Melbourne. Both the Yellow-spotted and the Graceful are common in forest habitats in North Queensland and I had trouble separating them when I first moved up here until I learnt their calls – the easiest way to distinguish them – so a comparison of the three species might be of interest and I’ve selected photos taken under similar condition using flash in poor light, typical of forests.

Lewin's Honeyeater (Meliphaga lewinii) by Ian

Lewin's Honeyeater (Meliphaga lewinii) by Ian

The Yellow-spotted – first photo – is intermediate in size (17-19cm/6.7-7.5in) between the larger Lewin’s – second photo – (19-22cm/7.5-8.7) and the smaller Graceful – third photo – (14-17cm/5.5-6.7in), so perhaps the key is to separate it from the other two species. Lewin’s has a dark-grey face (in front of the ear-patch), a large half-moon-shaped ear patch and a heavier bill. Both have longish pale-yellow, almost whitish, gapes. The typical call of the Lewin’s is the familiar loud and regular ‘machine-gun’ rattle of the forest of eastern Australia; that of the Yellow-spotted is clearly related but different: slower and descending. Both also have harsh chattering calls, differing in tone and intensity in a similar way to the machine-gun calls – that of the Lewin’s is louder and harsher in a bigger-bird sort of way.

Both the Yellow-spotted and the Graceful have greenish faces and smallish ear-patches which look similar to me (though some field guides make distinctions such as ’rounded triangle, yellow’ versus ’rounded, cream’: huh?). The gapes, however, are quite different, that of the Yellow-spotted being long and pale like that Lewin’s while that of the Graceful is shorter and very yellow (chrome). The Graceful has a longer bill with a decurved lower edge (that of both Lewin’s and Yellow-spotted is almost straight), though I’ve found that a tricky field mark unless you get a good, exactly lateral view. Happily, the call of the Graceful is very different, a sharp ‘tuck’ or ‘pik’ repeated at intervals and very distinctive.

Graceful Honeyeater (Meliphaga gracilis) by Ian

Graceful Honeyeater (Meliphaga gracilis) by Ian

All three species are quite vocal and in the forest you normally hear them before you see them, so I find it best to use the visual field marks to confirm an auditory identification, particularly if you find the Graceful and the Yellow-spotted together, which happens sometimes. In the north, the Lewin’s is more of a highland species, though it does move down in winter, and it’s unusual to find it in the company of the other two.

We made a recent trip to Paluma to inspect the cyclone damage. The local birds, particularly the fruit-eaters seemed very hungry and responded well to feeding so I’ve added photos of these species:
Victoria’s Riflebird
Satin Bowerbird
Spotted Catbird
White-cheeked Honeyeater
Macleay’s Honeyeater

At home the good news is that my lone cyclone-surviving male Blue-winged Kookaburra seems to have attracted a mate, and there were plenty of Dollarbirds around yesterday.

Best wishes,
Ian

Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: +61-7 4751 3115
Preferred Email: ian@birdway.com.au
Website: http://birdway.com.au


Lee’s Addition:
The Honeyeaters are part of the 183 species, 44 genera, in the Meliphagidae Family. This family is in the Passeriformes Order.

Eating too much honey can make you sick. (Proverbs 25:16 CEV)

To see more of Ian’s Bird of the Week articles – CLICK HERE

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Eastern Spinebill

Eastern Spinebill (Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris) male by Ian

Eastern Spinebill (Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris) male by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Eastern Spinebill by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter 07-21-10

The Spinebills, Eastern and Western, are in my opinion the most elegant of the Honeyeaters so here is the Eastern Spinebill – I haven’t yet managed to photograph the Western Spinebill of SW Western Australia – with the winning combination of tasteful colours and long, fine, curved bill. The bill is adapted to probing for nectar in the flowers of Bottlebrushes, as in the first photo, or Grevilleas and they also feed on insects.

Eastern Spinebill (Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris) female by Ian

Eastern Spinebill (Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris) female by Ian

Males and females are subtly different as the male has a black crown with a sharp transition to the rufous nape while the female has a greyish crown with a gradual transition to the rufous nape. The bird in the first photo is a male, while the one in the second, coming down to drink in a creek, is a female.

Both these birds were photographed in the highlands around Paluma, not far from Townsville. The Eastern Spinebill is found in Tasmania and coastal southeastern and eastern Australia from the Mount Lofty Ranges in South Australia to Fraser Island in SE Queensland and there is an isolated population in the highlands of northeastern Queensland from Eungella near Mackay to Cooktown north of Cairns. This is perhaps a separate race, named cairnsensis.

I am keen to get feedback on recent changes to the website from visitors with slower, e.g. dial-up, connections. The inclusion of thumbnails to all the 142 bird families represented in the site means that the homepage – http://birdway.com.au/index.htm – has a lot of stuff on it to download. If you have found this a problem, please let me know ian@birdway.com.au as I can easily move the ‘Instant Guide to Bird Families’ to a separate page. This would make the homepage faster and make viewing all the thumbnails optional with a link from the homepage.

Best wishes,
Ian

Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: +61-7 4751 3115
Preferred Email: ian@birdway.com.au
Website: http://birdway.com.au


Lee’s Addition:

I don’t know about going to Ian’s site with a slow connection, but I sure do enjoy his new layout. I can jump right to the family I am looking for. I really appreciate your hard work on the front page, Ian. Click to see more of Ian’s photos of Eastern Spinebills.

Spinebills are in the Meliphagidae – Honeyeaters Family which 182 species and is in the Passeriformes Order.

13–16 cm (5–6 in) long, the male Eastern Spinebill has a long thin downcurved black bill with a black head, white throat with a reddish patch and red iris. It has a brownish-red nape, a grey brown back and pale cinnamon underparts. The dark tail is tipped with white laterally. Females and juveniles are smaller and duller. The call is a rapid piping.

The Eastern Spinebill feeds on nectar from many plants, including the blooms of gum trees, mistletoes Amyema spp., Epacris longiflora, Epacris impressa(common heath), Correa reflexa, and various members of the Proteaceae such as Banksia ericifolia, Banksia integrifolia, Lambertia formosa and Grevillea speciosa, as well as small insects and other invertebrates. A 1982 study in the New England National Park in North-eastern New South Wales found that there was a large influx of birds coinciding with the start of flowering of Banksia spinulosa there. They have been known to feed from exotic plants such as Fuchsias.

My son, eat honey because it is good, And the honeycomb which is sweet to your taste; So shall the knowledge of wisdom be to your soul; If you have found it, there is a prospect, And your hope will not be cut off. (Proverbs 24:13-14 NKJV)

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Silver-crowned Friarbird

Silver-crowned Friarbird (Philemon argenticeps) by Ian

Silver-crowned Friarbird (Philemon argenticeps) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Silver-crowned Friarbird ~ by Ian Montgomery

Last week, we had the splendid Palm Cockatoo at Mungkan Kandju National Park. On the way home, I spent the night at Musgrave, Cape York Peninsula, so that I could look for Golden-shouldered Parrots at Artemis Station where the owners, the Shephards, have worked tirelessly to save this utterly beautiful but endangered parrot. This featured as Bird of the Week last December, so I’ve chosen the Silver-crowned Friarbird as the main species this week.

Silver-crowned Friarbird (Philemon argenticeps) by Ian

Silver-crowned Friarbird (Philemon argenticeps) by Ian

At Musgrave, I camped under an African tulip tree, a popular ornamental introduction in northern Australia but now branded as a Class 3 weed in Queensland (may not be supplied or sold and removal may be required from environmentally sensitive areas). It is, however, very popular with the larger honeyeaters and after returning from Artemis, I noticed a smallish Friarbird feeding in the tree and making unfamiliar sounds, this Silver-crowned Friarbird, a species I’ve seen in the Northern Territory but not previously in northern Queensland, where the similar Helmeted Friarbird is much commoner.

The north Queensland race of the Helmeted Friarbird (yorki) also has a silver crown and frequently mid-identified. The Silver-crowned is better identified by its smaller size (27-32cm/11-12.6in compared with 32.5-37cm/12.8-14.6in), the shape of the bare patch on the cheek and the shape of the bill-knob. In the Silver-crowned Friarbird the black facial skin forms an angular point behind the eye but is rounded in the Helmeted. This isn’t always easy to see, so I have included the second photo which shows it better. The Silver-crowned has a more prominent bill-knob, but the knob is less obvious in juvenile birds of both species and variable in shape in the races of the Helmeted. The call is perhaps more reliable as the tone of the Silver-crowned is noticeably more nasal, sometimes described as ‘cat-like’ and also likened to the calls of the Koel. I’m rather deaf, but even I noticed the difference.

Golden-shouldered Parrot (Psephotus chrysopterygius) by Ian

Golden-shouldered Parrot (Psephotus chrysopterygius) by Ian

Sue Shephard found me a pair of Golden-shouldered Parrots feeding on the roadside and the male was quite approachable, so I’ve included a photo of this amazing parrot.

Back at the website, I’ve been labouring to fix the formatting problems discovered with old versions of Internet Explorer. I’ve fixed the home page and all the new format family index pages and am now updating the actual photo galleries. I’ve started with the galleries birds that appear at the top of the home page as ‘Ian’s Picks’, normally updated weekly, though I’ll leave the current crop for a few days longer.

As part of the reformatting, I’m adding a few refinements. In the family index pages, I’ve included ‘place-holders’ for regional thumbnail links that don’t apply (eg Australian Thumbnails for Woodpeckers) so that the regional thumbnail links always appear in the same location in both the family index pages and the species galleries and I’m including the other applicable regional thumbnail links in the regional index pages so that, for example, you can go straight from the Old World Woodpecker thumbnails to the New World Woodpecker thumbnails without having to go through the Global thumbnails.

I’ve also including the previous and next family pointers (and the names of the families) in the regional index pages so that, again, you don’t have to go to the Global level of thumbnails to get to the next or previous family. This all sounds more complicated that it actually is, so, if you are interested, have a look at the Woodpeckers: http://www.birdway.com.au/picidae/index.htm .

Best wishes,
Ian


Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: +61-7 4751 3115

Preferred Email: ian@birdway.com.au
Website: http://birdway.com.au


Lee’s Addition:

Again, Ian has captured some fantastic photos of the birds. He has such a talent for his photography. Thanks again, Ian.

The Friarbirds are in the Meliphagidae Family of the Passeriformes Order.

The crown of the wise is their riches: but the foolishness of fools is folly. (Proverbs 14:24 KJV)

See also:
Ian’s Bird of the Week – Helmeted Friarbird

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Striped Honeyeater

Striped Honeyeater (Plectorhyncha lanceolata) by Ian

Striped Honeyeater (Plectorhyncha lanceolata) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Striped Honeyeater – by Ian Montgomery

I’ve been slow to produce this week’s bird as I’ve been burning the midnight oil rewriting the home page of the website – more about that later.

Last week we had the Southern Bookbook from a rewarding evening of spotlighting at Trafalgar Station south of Charters Towers. Daytime birding there produced some interesting birds, notably a Pictorella Mannikin among some Plum-headed Finches and pair of Striped Honeyeaters. this is an uncommon Honeyeater with some unusual features and, being in its genus, is not closely related to other Honeyeaters.

Striped Honeyeater (Plectorhyncha lanceolata) by Ian

Striped Honeyeater (Plectorhyncha lanceolata) by Ian

One such feature is a very un-honeyeater-like call that first attracted our attention. The field guides agree that it is mellow, rollicking or rolling, and rising and falling. To me it sounded like a loud gerygone, the rusty bicycle wheel of a Mangrove or Large-billed maybe, but I’m a bit deaf and you mightn’t agree. In appearance it is rather dapper, and seems formally dressed for the drier, fairly casual areas of eastern Australia in which it occurs, from the Spencer Gulf in South Australia to Cooktown in NE Queensland.

It shows its affinity with honeyeaters by having a brush tongue for nectar, but the narrow, pointed bill, shown in the second photo is in fact adapted to supplementing a sugary diet by probing for insects and orther invertebrates as illustrated by the bird in the third photo, which has just found a spider in some mistletoe. The trees are mulga, a dry country acacia, and typical habitat for Striped Honeyeaters, I included the second photo, as it isn’t often one gets to photograph birds from above, a bird’s eye view so to speak, unless they are acrobatic like these in search of food.

Striped Honeyeater (Plectorhyncha lanceolata) by Ian

Striped Honeyeater (Plectorhyncha lanceolata) by Ian

I’ve redone the home page to make it easier to find photos of the more than 1,200 species in the 142 families now represented. The main change is the inclusion of a set of 142 family thumbnails – called Instant Links to Bird Families – in taxonomic sequence to take you directly to the species thumbnails for each family. The family thumbnails have been selected to show a typical member of the family, and each one has a list of the included species which will appear if you hold the cursor over the thumbnail. If you know or can guess in which family to look, you can find out, without leaving the home page, whether a particular species is present in the website.

Having clicked on a family thumbnail, the species thumbnails then allow you to go directly to view the first photo of a particular species and the thumbnails of other photos of that species. You can therefore find and view any of the now more than 5,000 photos in just three clicks. All the 5,000 photos have both family thumbnail button(s) for global and regional thumbnails and home page buttons, so you can then move back up to the family level or return directly to the home page to repeat the process for an unrelated species.

To make room for the new Instant Links, I’ve moved the ‘Recent Additions’ to a horizontal, scrollable row of (currently more than 70) thumbnails. The most recent additions are visible on the left, older ones are revealed by scrolling to the right. Future thumbnails will include a message – viewable in the same way as the family thumbnail list by holding the cursor over the thumbnail – about the date of the addition and the number of new photos; current ones just have a message to the effect ‘Click here to go to the gallery of  . . ‘.
Links:
Instant Links to Bird Families http://www.birdway.com.au/#families
Recent Additions http://www.birdway.com.au/#updates
Southern Boobook http://www.birdway.com.au/strigidae/southern_boobook/index.htm
Pictorella Mannikin http://www.birdway.com.au/estrildidae/pictorella_mannikin/index.htm
Plum-headed Finch http://www.birdway.com.au/estrildidae/plum_headed_finch/index.htm
Best wishes,
Ian

Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: +61-7 4751 3115
Preferred Email: ian@birdway.com.au
Website: http://birdway.com.au


Lee’s Addition:

Striped Honeyeaters are in the Meliphagidae – Honeyeaters Family of the Passeriformes Order. There are 142 members in that family.
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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Banded Honeyeater

Banded Honeyeater(Cissomela pectoralis) by Ian

Banded Honeyeater(Cissomela pectoralis) by Ian

Newsletter – 03-21-10

I’ve continued updating some of the Honeyeater galleries on the website. Last week, we had one of the largest, the Helmeted Friarbird, but here is one of the smaller ones, the Banded Honeyeater with a length of about 12cm/5in. Fledgling Banded Honeyeaters have fudge-coloured upper parts, wings, tail and breast-band which change to black in adult birds (of both sexes), contrasting smartly with white underparts, throat and rump.

Banded Honeyeater(Cissomela pectoralis) by Ian

Banded Honeyeater(Cissomela pectoralis) by Ian

At least that’s what they are supposed to do. In practice, most of the birds one sees are in transitional plumage varying between that shown in the first photo at a waterhole, which has the brownish back and head and yellow cheeks of the juvenile, but the black wings and tail of the adult. The bird in the second photo feeding on melaleuca blossom, has got almost fully black and white plumage but still has a few brownish feathers on the back. On the trip to the Top End of the Northern Territory last year where Banded Honeyeaters are fairly common, I deliberately searched for a completely black and white bird without success, and this was the best I could find. I’d be interested to hear whether others have noticed this too.

The Banded Honeyeater has a northern distribution from the Kimberley region of Western Australia to North Queensland, where it is uncommon south of Cooktown. These birds are ‘blossom nomads’ and and in recent years have been seen regularly at White Mountains National Park, between Charters Towers and Hughenden and south of Townsville, when the grevilleas are in bloom in early winter.

Taxonomically, the Banded Honeyeater has traditionally been lumped in the same genus (Certhionyx) as the superficially similar Black and Pied Honeyeaters. Recently studies have indicated that the three species are not closely related and each has been relegated to its own (monotypic) genus, Cissomela in the case of the Banded. It is apparently closer to the White-cheeked Honeyeater and allies (Phylidonyris) while the Black is closer to the Scarlet Honeyeater and relatives (Myzomela). I’ve recently updated the galleries of all these species, including some colourful photos of Scarlet and White-cheeked feeding in red and yellow blossom respectively in Paluma last Friday. (Both these have featured as Bird of the Week previously, disqualifying them from, or at least handicapping them in, selection this week).

Links:
Banded Honeyeater
Black Honeyeater
Pied Honeyeater
White-cheeked Honeyeater
Scarlet Honeyeater

Best wishes,
Ian

Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: +61-7 4751 3115
Preferred Email: ian@birdway.com.au
Website: http://birdway.com.au


Lee’s Addition:
The neat looking Banded Honeyeater is in the Meliphagidae – Honeyeaters Family of the Passeriformes Order. Ian has also written about the Rufous-banded Honeyeater and the Bar-breasted Honeyeater.

The IOC 2.4 Version list these birds as:
Banded Honeyeater (Cissomela pectoralis) as is
Black Honeyeater (Sugomel niger)
Pied Honeyeater (Certhionyx variegatus)
White-cheeked Honeyeater (Phylidonyris)
Scarlet Honeyeater now the Scarlet Myzomela (Myzomela sanguinolenta)

You will be well pleased visiting the Ian’s links above. All of those birds are very neat looking birds. The Lord has created the honeyeaters with a remarkable tongue that is “partially tubelike and split, with a brushlike tip superbly adapted for extracting nectar. Honeyeaters also have specially adapted kidneys that allow them to process maximum nutritional benefit from this food source.” (Complete Birds of the World, National Geographic)

More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. (Psalms 19:10 KJV)