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 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