Yellow-spotted, Lewin's or Graceful honeyeater?

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Yellow-spotted, Lewin's or Graceful honeyeater?

Found just out of Cardwell in QLD, which from my book, makes all 3 species of Honeyeater a possibility. And to me they all look very similar!

Lachlan's picture

My thought would be Graceful Honeyeater, as it has a roundish, blobbish ear mark, and the gape mark only seems to go to the eye in the photo. Lewin's goes to under the eye and Graceful and Yellow Spotted goes past the eye. However, the gape mark gets really thin below and past the eye in Graceful, a maybe isn't visible. Happy to be corrected though, I've only ever seen Lewin's in real life. 

ihewman's picture

Lewin's Honeyeater has a moon-shaped crescent cheek spot, whereas Graceful and Yellow-spotted HE have a rounded, sort of backwards-pointing spade shaped cheek spot. However, the cheek spot of Graceful HE is smaller than that of the Yellow-spotted HE. The gape and yellow line doesn't seem to vary between the three species.

Simpson and Day clearly illustrates the difference in profile bill shape and size of the birds... Lewin's has the thickest, heaviest bill which is also straight-ish. Yellow-spotted has a slightly thinner bill than Lewin's but is roughly the same shape. Graceful has the thinnest bill which is noticeably down-curved, much like a myzomela honeyeater.

Lewin's HE has a throat and chest mottled grey-blue, and Yellow Spotted HE is similar but less obvious... Graceful HE has an overall very light underside where the olive-green fades at the chest.

In saying that, I would say your bird is a Yellow-spotted Honeyeater.

Brandon (aka ihewman)

Lachlan's picture

Doesn't the Graceful have a lumpy, sort of circular cheek spot rather than a spade shaped one?

pacman's picture

I seem to recall a recent discussion on Birding-aus on the difficulty of separating Yellow-Spotted and Graceful HEs. My faint recollection is that a learned comment was made about the difficulties of IDing on sight only and that song was required to make an accurate ID.

I do agree that it is not Lewin's HE.

Having seen neither Yellow-Spotted or Graceful HEs I will not otherwise contribute.



From my experience, even experts struggle to separate Yellow-Spotteds from Gracefuls, and using the supposed 'crescent-shaped' cheek spots to ID Lewins (which the guides seem to over-simplify) is also unreliable. The calls of all three are quite different though, and along with bird size and cheek spots are the best way to make an ID where species overlap.

Lewins call: 'Machine-gun'- One note repeated many times over in quick succession
Graceful call: A one-off 'plik' sound, very much resembling a car alarm when turned on with a remote controlled key.
The Yellow-spotted I can't recall, but it's a typical honeyeater call and is very unlike the above two !


Unfortunately this photo was taken last year, and I cannot recall the sound it made.

I will take more notice of the calls from now on! Thanks for all your help.


Graceful Honeyeaters nesting.

Hi all, I'm a new member here and please forgive any errors in my comment; I stand ready to be corrected if wrong. The identification of these three birds should be fairly simple.. the graceful is the smallest of the three, I live north of Mossman and south of Daintree. Even as I write this, there is a pair of 'gracefuls' building a nest in my front garden. Lewin's is far too large to be the birds nesting here, the nest and voice is wrong also;  and also for the yellow-spotted. The graceful is about the same size as a sunbird, maybe a little larger and the facial markings are distinctly different to the other two Meliphaga, as mentioned above. The key indicators, IMHO is size and voice, although there are variations in voice in the more northern race (see: Pizzey & Knight 2006 8th ed, p. 378).

Oh, by the way, I am getting some fantastic HD close-up footage of these birds building their nest, once they have completed their breeding cycle I will post a link for everyone to check it out, I hope to get footage of the eggs hatching and chick rearing habits as well.

These little birds are not afraid of having their nest observed by me or a camera placed less than a metre away, they frequently fly within a foot of me while I am messing with the camera... they just look at me while I talk to them and then they get on with their job. Very cute behaviour is being observed at the moment in the way they try the nest for size, it looks more like snuggling.

They are very meticulous about how they build and the materials they gather. I saw [a different]one actually pick a large golden orb weaver out of it's web, drop it in a pool and then set about stealing the web for a nest. Smart little birds me thinks. 

timrp's picture

Welcome, as far as I know your right about the identification. I can't wait to see the video you are making! Have you got any photos of them? If so I would love to see them.

 and @UrbanBirdsOz  @birdsinbackyards
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