Brown Honeyeater

Clear, ringing, musical: 'whit, whit, whitchit'
Facts and Figures
Research Species: 
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Breeding season: 
April to November in north; June to February in south
Clutch Size: 
2 to 3 eggs
Conservation Status
Basic Information
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What does it look like?

The Brown Honeyeater is a medium-small pale grey-brown honeyeater with a distinctive yellow tuft behind its eye. It also has yellow to olive wing patches and tail panels. It is pale grey below, darker olive brown above and has a long curved black bill. Young birds are paler with more yellow colouring and a yellow gape (open bill). It has a fast, undulating flight and is seen either singly, in pairs or small flocks in flowering trees and shrubs.

Similar species: 

The Brown Honeyeater is similar to the Dusky Honeyeater, Myzomela obscura, in size and shape, but this species is much darker brown and lacks the tuft behind the eye and the yellowish wing patches. It could also be confused with females or young birds of the Scarlet HoneyeaterM. sanguinolenta, or Red-headed Honeyeater, M. erythrocephala, but these are smaller with shorter tails, lack the eye tuft, often have a reddish face and have very different calls.

Where does it live?

The Brown Honeyeater is widespread in Australia, from south-western Australia across the Top End to Queensland, and through New South Wales on the eastern side of the Great Dividing Range to Swansea in the Hunter Region. It is rarely seen southwards from Lake Macquarie to the Parramatta River, Sydney, but is regularly recorded in suitable habitats such as Homebush Bay and Kurnell in small numbers, and is a vagrant to the Illawarra region. It is found west of the Great Dividing Range in New South Wales to Tamworth and Gunnedah and south-west to Hillston. The Brown Honeyeater is also found in Bali and the Lesser Sundas, Indonesia, Aru Island and in parts of Papua New Guinea.


The Brown Honeyeater is found in a wide range of wooded habitats, usually near water. It is often found in mangroves and woodlands or dense forests along waterways. It can also be found in mallee, spinifex woodlands, low dense shrublands, heaths and saltmarshes, as well as in monsoon forests or rainforests in the Top End. It is common in parks, gardens and street trees in urban areas as well as on farms and in remnant vegetation along roadsides.

Seasonal movements: 

Nomadic or partly nomadic in response to flowering of food plants. Some seasonal movements in parts of its range.

What does it do?

The Brown Honeyeater feeds on nectar and insects, foraging at all heights in trees and shrubs. It may be seen in mixed flocks with other honeyeaters. In Western Australia, these include the Singing Honeyeater, White-fronted Honeyeater and the Red Wattlebird, while in the Top End it is often seen with the Dusky Honeyeater. However, it will be displaced at bird feeders by larger birds.


During the breeding season, male Brown Honeyeaters defend a nesting territory by singing from tall trees and they stand guard while the female builds the nest and lays the eggs. The small neat cup-nest is made from fine bark, grasses and plant down, bound with spiders web, and is slung by the rim in a shrub, fern or tree at up to 5 m from the ground and is usually very well-hidden by thick foliage. Only the female incubates, but both sexes feed the young. Nest predators include Pied Currawongs, snakes and cats. Brush CuckoosPallid Cuckoos,Horsfield's Bronze-Cuckoos and Shining Bronze-Cuckoos will parasitise nests.

Living with us

Land-clearing in the Western Australian wheatbelt has reduced suitable Brown Honeyeater habitat, but they often occur elsewhere in urban and farmland habitats. Around Sydney, populations declined between the 1950s and 1990s, but they appear to be on the increase again.

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