Scarlet Myzomela (Honeyeater) Myzomela sanguinolenta ©Ian Montgomery Website

The honeyeaters are a large and diverse family of small to medium-sized birds most common in Australia and New Guinea, but also found in New Zealand, the Pacific islands as far east as Samoa and Tonga, and the islands to the north and west of New Guinea known as Wallacea. Bali, on the other side of the Wallace Line, has a single species.

Honeyeaters and the Australian chats make up the family Meliphagidae. In total there are 187 species in 50 genera, roughly half of them native to Australia, many of the remainder occupying New Guinea. With their closest relatives, the Maluridae (Australian fairy-wrens), Pardalotidae (pardalotes), and Acanthizidae (thornbills, Australian warblers, scrubwrens, etc.) they comprise the superfamily Meliphagoidea and originated early in the evolutionary history of the oscine passerine radiation. Although honeyeaters look and behave very much like other nectar-feeding passerines around the world (such as the sunbirds and flowerpeckers), they are unrelated, and the similarities are the consequence of convergent evolution.

The extent of the evolutionary partnership between honeyeaters and Australasian flowering plants is unknown, but probably substantial. A great many Australian plants are fertilised by honeyeaters, particularly the Proteaceae, Myrtaceae, and Epacridaceae. It is known that the honeyeaters are important in New Zealand as well, and assumed that the same applies in other areas.

Meliphagoidea is a superfamily of passerine birds. They contain a vast diversity of small to mid-sized passerines widespread in the Austro-pacific region. The Australian Continent has the largest richness in genera and species including the Meliphagidae; the family of Honeyeaters.

Honeyeaters can be either nectarivorous, insectivorous, frugivorous, or a combination of nectar and insect-eating. Unlike the hummingbirds of America, honeyeaters do not have extensive adaptations for hovering flight, though smaller members of the family do hover hummingbird-style to collect nectar from time to time. In general, honeyeaters prefer to flit quickly from perch to perch in the outer foliage, stretching up or sideways or hanging upside down at need. Many genera have a highly developed brush-tipped tongue, frayed and fringed with bristles which soak up liquids readily. The tongue is flicked rapidly and repeatedly into a flower, the upper mandible then compressing any liquid out when the bill is closed.

In addition to nectar, all or nearly all honeyeaters take insects and other small creatures, usually by hawking, sometimes by gleaning. A few of the larger species, notably the White-eared Honeyeater, and the Strong-billed Honeyeater of Tasmania, probe under bark for insects and other morsels. Many species supplement their diets with a little fruit, and a small number eat considerable amounts of fruit, particularly in tropical rainforests and, oddly, in semi-arid scrubland. The Painted Honeyeater is a mistletoe specialist. Most, however, exist on a diet of nectar supplemented by varying quantities of insects. In general, the honeyeaters with long, fine bills are more nectarivorous, the shorter-billed species less so, but even specialised nectar eaters like the spinebills take extra insects to add protein to their diet when breeding.

According to the IOC there are 187 species in this family; they are:

Black Honeyeater Sugomel nigrum

Drab Myzomela Myzomela blasii
White-chinned Myzomela Myzomela albigula
Ashy Myzomela Myzomela cineracea
Ruby-throated Myzomela Myzomela eques
Dusky Myzomela Myzomela obscura
Red Myzomela Myzomela cruentata
Papuan Black Myzomela Myzomela nigrita
New Ireland Myzomela Myzomela pulchella
Crimson-hooded Myzomela Myzomela kuehni
Red-headed Myzomela Myzomela erythrocephala
Sumba Myzomela Myzomela dammermani
Mountain Myzomela Myzomela adolphinae
Banda Myzomela Myzomela boiei
Sulawesi Myzomela Myzomela chloroptera
Wakolo Myzomela Myzomela wakoloensis
Scarlet Myzomela Myzomela sanguinolenta
New Caledonian Myzomela Myzomela caledonica
Cardinal Myzomela Myzomela cardinalis
Rotuma Myzomela Myzomela chermesina
Micronesian Myzomela Myzomela rubratra
Sclater’s Myzomela Myzomela sclateri
Bismarck Black Myzomela Myzomela pammelaena
Red-capped Myzomela Myzomela lafargei
Crimson-rumped Myzomela Myzomela eichhorni
Red-vested Myzomela Myzomela malaitae
Black-headed Myzomela Myzomela melanocephala
Sooty Myzomela Myzomela tristrami
Sulphur-breasted Myzomela Myzomela jugularis
Black-bellied Myzomela Myzomela erythromelas
Black-breasted Myzomela Myzomela vulnerata
Red-collared Myzomela Myzomela rosenbergii

Tawny-crowned Honeyeater Gliciphila melanops

Green-backed Honeyeater Glycichaera fallax

Leaden Honeyeater Ptiloprora plumbea
Yellowish-streaked Honeyeater Ptiloprora meekiana
Rufous-sided Honeyeater Ptiloprora erythropleura
Rufous-backed Honeyeater Ptiloprora guisei
Mayr’s Honeyeater Ptiloprora mayri
Grey-streaked Honeyeater Ptiloprora perstriata

Eastern Spinebill Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris
Western Spinebill Acanthorhynchus superciliosus

Pied Honeyeater Certhionyx variegatus

Tui Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae

New Zealand Bellbird Anthornis melanura
Chatham Bellbird Anthornis melanocephala

Plain Honeyeater Pycnopygius ixoides
Marbled Honeyeater Pycnopygius cinereus
Streak-headed Honeyeater Pycnopygius stictocephalus

Banded Honeyeater Cissomela pectoralis

Scaly-crowned Honeyeater Lichmera lombokia
Olive Honeyeater Lichmera argentauris
Indonesian Honeyeater Lichmera limbata
Brown Honeyeater Lichmera indistincta
Grey-eared Honeyeater Lichmera incana
Silver-eared Honeyeater Lichmera alboauricularis
Scaly-breasted Honeyeater Lichmera squamata
Buru Honeyeater Lichmera deningeri
Seram Honeyeater Lichmera monticola
Flame-eared Honeyeater Lichmera flavicans
Black-necklaced Honeyeater Lichmera notabilis

Crescent Honeyeater Phylidonyris pyrrhopterus
New Holland Honeyeater Phylidonyris novaehollandiae
White-cheeked Honeyeater Phylidonyris niger

White-streaked Honeyeater Trichodere cockerelli

Painted Honeyeater Grantiella picta

Striped Honeyeater Plectorhyncha lanceolata

Spotted Honeyeater Xanthotis polygrammus
Macleay’s Honeyeater Xanthotis macleayanus
Tawny-breasted Honeyeater Xanthotis flaviventer
Kadavu Honeyeater Xanthotis provocator

Meyer’s Friarbird Philemon meyeri
Brass’s Friarbird Philemon brassi
Little Friarbird Philemon citreogularis
Grey Friarbird Philemon kisserensis
Timor Friarbird Philemon inornatus
Dusky Friarbird Philemon fuscicapillus
Seram Friarbird Philemon subcorniculatus
Black-faced Friarbird Philemon moluccensis
Tanimbar Friarbird Philemon plumigenis
Helmeted Friarbird Philemon buceroides
New Guinea Friarbird Philemon novaeguineae
Hornbill Friarbird Philemon yorki
New Britain Friarbird Philemon cockerelli
New Ireland Friarbird Philemon eichhorni
Manus Friarbird Philemon albitorques
Silver-crowned Friarbird Philemon argenticeps
Noisy Friarbird Philemon corniculatus
New Caledonian Friarbird Philemon diemenensis

White-streaked Friarbird Melitograis gilolensis

Blue-faced Honeyeater Entomyzon cyanotis

Black-chinned Honeyeater Melithreptus gularis
Strong-billed Honeyeater Melithreptus validirostris
Brown-headed Honeyeater Melithreptus brevirostris
White-throated Honeyeater Melithreptus albogularis
White-naped Honeyeater Melithreptus lunatus
Gilbert’s Honeyeater Melithreptus chloropsis
Black-headed Honeyeater Melithreptus affinis

Polynesian Wattled Honeyeater Foulehaio carunculatus
Fiji Wattled Honeyeater Foulehaio taviunensis
Kikau Foulehaio procerior

White-eared Honeyeater Nesoptilotis leucotis
Yellow-throated Honeyeater Nesoptilotis flavicollis

Gibberbird Ashbyia lovensis

Crimson Chat Epthianura tricolor
Orange Chat Epthianura aurifrons
Yellow Chat Epthianura crocea
White-fronted Chat Epthianura albifrons

Long-billed Honeyeater Melilestes megarhynchus

MacGregor’s Honeyeater Macgregoria pulchra

Arfak Honeyeater Melipotes gymnops
Common Smoky Honeyeater Melipotes fumigatus
Wattled Smoky Honeyeater Melipotes carolae
Spangled Honeyeater Melipotes ater

Olive Straightbill Timeliopsis fulvigula
Tawny Straightbill Timeliopsis griseigula

Rufous-banded Honeyeater Conopophila albogularis
Rufous-throated Honeyeater Conopophila rufogularis
Grey Honeyeater Conopophila whitei

Bar-breasted Honeyeater Ramsayornis fasciatus
Brown-backed Honeyeater Ramsayornis modestus

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater Acanthagenys rufogularis

Little Wattlebird Anthochaera chrysoptera
Western Wattlebird Anthochaera lunulata
Red Wattlebird Anthochaera carunculata
Yellow Wattlebird Anthochaera paradoxa
Regent Honeyeater Anthochaera phrygia

Bridled Honeyeater Bolemoreus frenatus
Eungella Honeyeater Bolemoreus hindwoodi

Yellow-faced Honeyeater Caligavis chrysops
Black-throated Honeyeater Caligavis subfrenata
Obscure Honeyeater Caligavis obscura

Yellow-tufted Honeyeater Lichenostomus melanops
Purple-gaped Honeyeater Lichenostomus cratitius

Bell Miner Manorina melanophrys
Noisy Miner Manorina melanocephala
Yellow-throated Miner Manorina flavigula
Black-eared Miner Manorina melanotis

Makira Honeyeater Meliarchus sclateri

Sooty Melidectes Melidectes fuscus
Gilliard’s Melidectes Melidectes whitemanensis
Short-bearded Melidectes Melidectes nouhuysi
Long-bearded Melidectes Melidectes princeps
Cinnamon-browed Melidectes Melidectes ochromelas
Vogelkop Melidectes Melidectes leucostephes
Yellow-browed Melidectes Melidectes rufocrissalis
Huon Melidectes Melidectes foersteri
Belford’s Melidectes Melidectes belfordi
Ornate Melidectes Melidectes torquatus

White-fronted Honeyeater Purnella albifrons

White-gaped Honeyeater Stomiopera unicolor
Yellow Honeyeater Stomiopera flava

Varied Honeyeater Gavicalis versicolor
Mangrove Honeyeater Gavicalis fasciogularis
Singing Honeyeater Gavicalis virescens

Yellow-tinted Honeyeater Ptilotula flavescens
Fuscous Honeyeater Ptilotula fusca
Grey-headed Honeyeater Ptilotula keartlandi
Grey-fronted Honeyeater Ptilotula plumula
Yellow-plumed Honeyeater Ptilotula ornata
White-plumed Honeyeater Ptilotula penicillata

Mottle-breasted Honeyeater Meliphaga mimikae
Forest Honeyeater Meliphaga montana
Mountain Honeyeater Meliphaga orientalis
Scrub Honeyeater Meliphaga albonotata
Mimic Honeyeater Meliphaga analoga
Tagula Honeyeater Meliphaga vicina
Graceful Honeyeater Meliphaga gracilis
Elegant Honeyeater Meliphaga cinereifrons
Yellow-gaped Honeyeater Meliphaga flavirictus
White-lined Honeyeater Meliphaga albilineata
Kimberley Honeyeater Meliphaga fordiana
Streak-breasted Honeyeater Meliphaga reticulata
Puff-backed Honeyeater Meliphaga aruensis
Yellow-spotted Honeyeater Meliphaga notata
Lewin’s Honeyeater Meliphaga lewinii

Guadalcanal Honeyeater Guadalcanaria inexpectata

Orange-cheeked Honeyeater Oreornis chrysogenys

Yellow-billed Honeyeater Gymnomyza viridis
Giant Honeyeater Gymnomyza brunneirostris
Mao Gymnomyza samoensis
Crow Honeyeater Gymnomyza aubryana

Dark-eared Myza Myza celebensis
White-eared Myza Myza sarasinorum

Bougainville Honeyeater Stresemannia bougainvillei

Barred Honeyeater Glycifohia undulata
White-bellied Honeyeater Glycifohia notabilis

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 187

  • Regent Honeyeater Project

    Colour-banding of Regent Honeyeaters in the Capertee Valley, west of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Fatbirder - linking birders worldwide... Wildlife Travellers see our sister site: WAND