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A photo of a Brown-headed Honeyeater (Melithreptus brevirostris)
Brown-headed Honeyeater

Brown-headed Honeyeater

Melithreptus brevirostris

The Brown-headed Honeyeater, Melithreptus brevirostris, presents as a small, active bird, measuring between 13 to 15 cm in length. It is characterized by its olive-brown upperparts and buff underparts. The head, nape, and throat are a rich brown, while a distinctive cream or orange patch of bare skin can be observed above the eye. A notable feature is the dull white crescent-shaped patch on the nape. The legs and feet of this species are a striking orange.

Identification Tips

When attempting to identify the Brown-headed Honeyeater, look for its brown head and the unique white crescent on the nape. The orange patch of bare skin over the eye is another key feature to distinguish it from other species. Its size is relatively small, and its olive-brown and buff coloration may help camouflage it in its natural habitat.

Habitat

This bird is found in temperate forests and areas with Mediterranean-type shrubby vegetation, where it can forage and nest.

Distribution

The Brown-headed Honeyeater is endemic to Australia, with its range extending from central-southern Queensland through central and eastern New South Wales, across Victoria, and into eastern South Australia. It is also present in the Flinders Ranges, the lower Murray River region, the Eyre Peninsula, and in south-western Western Australia.

Behaviour

This species is known for its scratchy chwik-chwik-chwik call, which can be heard as it actively forages. It is a sociable bird, often seen in small groups.

Song & Calls

The call of the Brown-headed Honeyeater is a distinctive scratchy chwik-chwik-chwik, which can be a helpful identifier when birdwatching.

Breeding

Breeding occurs from July to December, with the possibility of the birds breeding once or twice within this period. The nest is a well-crafted bowl made of grasses and bark, lined with softer plant material, and is typically hidden in the outer foliage of a tall eucalypt. The eggs are buff-pink, shiny, and sparsely spotted with red-brown, particularly at the larger end.

Similar Species

The Brown-headed Honeyeater may be confused with other black-headed species in the Melithreptus genus. However, its brown head and the white crescent on the nape are distinguishing features.

Diet and Feeding

Insects constitute the majority of the Brown-headed Honeyeater's diet. It forages by probing into the bark of tree trunks and branches, a behavior shared with its close relatives, the Black-chinned and Strong-billed Honeyeaters.

Conservation status

The IUCN Red List has classified the Brown-headed Honeyeater as Least Concern, indicating that, currently, there are no immediate threats to its population levels.

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