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A photo of a White-eared Honeyeater (Nesoptilotis leucotis)
White-eared Honeyeater

White-eared Honeyeater

Nesoptilotis leucotis

The White-eared Honeyeater, scientifically known as Nesoptilotis leucotis, is a medium-sized bird that graces the Australian landscape. This member of the Meliphagidae family, which boasts a remarkable 190 species, half of which are found in Australia, is distinguished by its olive-green plumage, a striking black head, and a distinctive white patch on its ear-coverts. Both sexes are similar in appearance, with a body length ranging from 19 to 22 centimeters and a weight of around 20 grams. The bird's eyes may be red or brown, particularly in juveniles, while its bill and legs are a dark grey to black.

Identification Tips

To identify the White-eared Honeyeater, look for the combination of its olive-green body, the dark grey crown with black streaks, and the black cheeks and throat. The white ear patch is a key distinguishing feature. The bird's wings and tail exhibit a blend of brown, yellow, and olive, and its bill is notably black.

Habitat

The White-eared Honeyeater favors a variety of habitats including forests, woodlands, heathlands, mallee, and dry inland scrublands. It thrives in areas with a eucalyptus canopy, rough bark, and a dense shrub layer, which provide nectar, insects, and nesting sites.

Distribution

This species is widely distributed across Australia, with the nominate subspecies found from eastern central Queensland through New South Wales and Victoria to southeastern South Australia. Another subspecies resides in southwestern Western Australia and the Eyre Peninsula.

Behaviour

White-eared Honeyeaters may be observed as solitary individuals or in small family groups. Their behavior ranges from sedentary to nomadic, and they may also engage in local migrations.

Song & Calls

The vocalizations of the White-eared Honeyeater are deep and mellow yet carry a metallic quality, with calls such as "chwok, chwok, chwok-whit" and "kwitchu, kwitchu," as well as a sharply scratchy, metallic "chwik!"

Breeding

Breeding season for the White-eared Honeyeater spans from July to March. Their nests are cup-shaped structures woven from grass, stems, bark, and cobwebs, often situated low in shrubs or grasses. They lay clutches of 2 to 3 speckled eggs and exhibit cooperative breeding behavior.

Similar Species

While there are no similar species mentioned, it is important to note the White-eared Honeyeater's distinct white ear patch when differentiating it from other honeyeaters.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the White-eared Honeyeater consists of nectar and insects. They forage for insects on tree trunks and branches, preferring trees with soft, peeling bark. Their feeding strategy involves a high-volume approach, indicating a diet of insects with low nutritional value.

Conservation status

The White-eared Honeyeater is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN, despite a decreasing population trend. Threats include habitat degradation, fire, and loss of understory vegetation.

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