Honeyeaters are a diverse group of Australian birds belonging to the family Meliphagidae. One of their special characteristics is a 'brush-tipped' tongue, with which they take up nectar from flowers. However, nectar is only one of their foods. Most honeyeaters also eat insects, and some eat more insects than nectar. Many honeyeaters also feed on pollen, berries and sugary exudates (e.g. sap) of plants as well as the sugary secretions of plant bugs (e.g. psyllids).

Mobile or sedentary and sometimes territorial

Many honeyeaters are highly mobile, searching out seasonal nectar sources. Mass-flowering eucalypts are particularly popular with these nomadic honeyeaters (e.g. Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, White-naped Honeyeater). Other species are sedentary (e.g. Little Wattlebird, Eastern Spinebill) and some species are strongly territorial (e.g. New Holland Honeyeater, Noisy Miner).

Competing for resources

Several different species of honeyeater often compete for plant resources in the same area, but the larger species tend to win the battles for access to flowers (e.g. Red Wattlebirds and Noisy Miners). However, some smaller species (e.g. Eastern Spinebills) can coexist with the large species because they don't need as much food and can 'sneak' into flowering plants if there is enough foliage cover for them to hide in.

How do gardens contribute?

Because gardeners tend to grow plants with large and long-lasting floral displays, urban areas can provide plenty of food for honeyeaters. However, it is often the large honeyeaters that dominate gardens. This is probably because there is often not enough dense shrubbery in gardens to provide cover for small species

Other birds that eat nectar

Members of the honeyeater family (Meliphagidae) are not the only bird species that feed on nectar. Silvereyes (Family Zosteropidae) and several species of lorikeet (Family Psittacidae) are also prominent nectar-feeders of urban areas.

Other nectar-feeding birds fact sheet list

Related information

Some Honeyeaters include:

Scientific Name: Sugomel niger
Scientific Name: Melithreptus gularis
Scientific Name: Melithreptus affinis
Scientific Name: Entomyzon cyanotis
Scientific Name: Lichmera indistincta
Scientific Name: Melithreptus brevirostris
Scientific Name: Phylidonyris pyrrhopterus
Scientific Name: Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris
Scientific Name: Lichenostomus fuscus
Scientific Name: Meliphaga lewinii
Scientific Name: Philemon citreogularis
Scientific Name: Anthochaera chrysoptera
Scientific Name: Phylidonyris novaehollandiae
Scientific Name: Philemon corniculatus
Scientific Name: Manorina melanocephala
Scientific Name: Grantiella picta
Scientific Name: Certhionyx variegatus
Scientific Name: Anthochaera carunculata
Scientific Name: Myzomela sanguinolenta
Scientific Name: Lichenostomus virescens
Scientific Name: Acanthagenys rufogularis
Scientific Name: Plectorhyncha lanceolata
Scientific Name: Melithreptus validirostris
Scientific Name: Glyciphila melanops
Scientific Name: Phylidonyris niger
Scientific Name: Lichenostomus leucotis
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