Black-headed Honeyeater

Did you know?

The Black-headed Honeyeater can be seen in mixed winter flocks with the Strong-billed Honeyeater, as well as pardalotes and thornbills.

The contact call is a high sharp two-note whistle: 'tsip-tsip'; also a harsh churring: 'shirp-shirp-shirp'.
Facts and Figures
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Breeding season: 
September to February
Clutch Size: 
Usually 3
16 days
Nestling Period: 
16 days
Conservation Status
Associated Plants
Basic Information
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What does it look like?

The Black-headed Honeyeater is the smaller of the two Melithreptushoneyeaters in Tasmania, with a wholly black head and throat, a fine black bill and a very pale blue to white crescent of bare skin over the eye. It has olive-green to brown upperparts and off-white underbody. Young birds differ by have a brown head and bill, with a faint yellow tinge to the throat. This species is gregarious, moving in pairs or small flocks with a swift, undulating flight. It is also known as the Black-capped Honeyeater, the Black-cap or the King Island Honeyeater.

Similar species: 

The Black-headed Honeyeater can be distinguished from the relatedStrong-billed HoneyeaterM. validirostris, by having a wholly black head with no white crescent across the back of the neck, as well as being smaller, with a finer bill and shorter tail.

Where does it live?

The Black-headed Honeyeater is endemic to Tasmania, being found throughout the eastern parts, but is scattered in the north-west and rarely found in the south-west. It is found on the Bass Strait Islands, being widespread in the eastern parts of King Island, as well as on Flinders Island, Cape Barren Island and on other islands of the Furneaux Group.


The Black-headed Honeyeater is mainly found in dry forests, usually below 1000 m altitude although it is sometimes found in sub-alpine and alpine habitats up to 1200 m. It prefers forests with a dense shrubby understorey and only those logged areas where mature trees are retained. It is also be found in wet forests (but not the cool temperate rainforests), open woodlands, coastal heaths and low shrublands. It is sometimes seen in urban parks and gardens and in orchards.

Seasonal movements: 

Sedentary, with some local movements during winter, with large flocks being seen together after breeding season.

What does it do?

The Black-headed Honeyeater feeds on insects, nectar and fruit. It usually feeds in flocks high in the canopy, searching for insects on foliage and flowers or feeding on nectar, often congregating at flowering trees in spring. Only occasionally seen on or near ground.


Black-headed Honeyeaters form monogamous, long-term pairs, with some help from other adults. They nest communally in small loose colonies. Both sexes build the deep, cup-shaped nest in a high well-hidden location among foliage, usually suspended by the lip from horizontal branches. The nest is formed from bark, with some grass or twigs, bound with spider-web and lined with feathers, fur, wool and fluffy seeds or thistle-down. Both sexes incubate the eggs, with the female often being fed by the male while on the nest, and feed the young, often with the help of other adults and young birds from the previous year's brood. Nests may be parasitised by Pallid Cuckoos,Fan-tailed Cuckoos, and Horsfield's Bronze-Cuckoos.

Living with us

The Black-headed Honeyeater is adversely affected by land-clearing on King Island, with populations along the Pass River declining since the early 1900s. This species prefers mature, unburnt forest or logged forests where a greater number of mature trees have been kept, rather than young regrowth forest.

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