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A photo of a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater (Acanthagenys rufogularis)
Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater

Acanthagenys rufogularis

The Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, known scientifically as Acanthagenys rufogularis, is a distinctive bird, large for a honeyeater, with a length spanning between 22 to 27 centimeters and a weight around 52 grams. It is the sole species within its genus, Acanthagenys, and is recognized by its speckled crown and dark grey on brown plumage. The adult's cheek is predominantly white with a grey and/or brown streak beneath, while juveniles sport a less pronounced yellow cheek sash. A striking feature is its long, straight beak with a black tip and a fleshy red or pink base, complemented by a long, dark stripe through the eyes extending to the ear coverts.

Identification Tips

To identify the Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, look for its creamy-white breast with short, brown streaks and a throat that may appear light brown or cinnamon. The wing feathers are mottled dark olive-brown to grey with white edges, and the tail mirrors this coloration but with white-tipped feathers. The under-tail coverts are white or light grey, often streaked. Variability in appearance is noted, with some populations, such as those on the Mornington Peninsula, exhibiting darker bellies.

Habitat

This bird is found across most of Australia, excluding Tasmania, the far south-west of Western Australia, and the northern tropics. Habitats range from deserts and coastal scrublands to dry woodlands, with sightings also in mangroves, orchards, and tea tree environments along coastal foreshores.

Distribution

The Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater's range encompasses most of Australia, with the exception of Tasmania, northern tropical areas, and the southeastern coast. It is also present on Kangaroo Island in South Australia.

Behaviour

Sociable and aggressive, the Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater is often seen foraging in large flocks. It is considered nomadic in the northern parts of its range, while in the south, it tends to be more resident.

Breeding

Breeding occurs throughout the year, with a peak in egg-laying from late August to mid-November in the eastern range. Both parents are involved in raising the young, with nests typically containing two to three off-white eggs speckled with dark brown. Nests are deep, cup-shaped structures woven with grass and spider silk, often lined with soft materials like possum fur.

Diet and Feeding

An opportunistic feeder, the Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater's diet consists of 38% nectar, with the remainder being insects, small lizards, spiders, larvae, and fruit. It is one of the largest beaked honeyeaters, taking advantage of nectar abundance in winter and spring, and shifting to insects and fruit at other times.

Conservation status

The IUCN Red List classifies the Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater as Least Concern, indicating a stable population without significant threats to its survival.

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