Scarlet Honeyeater

Did you know?

Populations of Scarlet Honeyeaters have occasionally exploded suddenly, with larger numbers than usual being reported in a particular area.

Males have a silvery tinkling song, which is sung from a prominent perch. Also, 'chiew chiew' contact calls made by both sexes.
Facts and Figures
Research Species: 
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Breeding season: 
July to January
Clutch Size: 
Usually 2
12 days
Nestling Period: 
12 days
Conservation Status
Basic Information
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What does it look like?

The adult male Scarlet Honeyeater is a vivid scarlet red and black bird with whitish underparts. The females and immature birds are dull brown with dull white underparts and a reddish wash on the chin. In both sexes the tail is relatively short, the bill strongly curved and the eye is dark. This species is a small honeyeater, usually seen alone or in pairs, but occasionally in flocks, high in trees.

Similar species: 

The male Scarlet Honeyeater can be confused with the male Red-headed Honeyeater, M. erythrocephala, where their ranges overlap (east coast of Cape York Peninsula). It can be distinguished by having more extensive red colouring over the back and down the breast. Female and immature Scarlet Honeyeaters may be confused with similarly coloured honeyeaters, including females and immatures of the Red-headed and the Dusky Honeyeater, M. obscura, as well as the Brown HoneyeaterLichmera indistincta. They differ from the Red-headed in being more olive-brown and lack red on the forehead. They are smaller and more compact than the Dusky, with a shorter bill and tail, as well as having different calls. They are smaller than the Brown Honeyeater and lack this species' eyespot.

Where does it live?

The Scarlet Honeyeater is found along the east coast of Australia, from Cooktown, Queensland to Gippsland, Victoria, but it is less common south of Sydney, being a summer migrant in the south. It is also found in Sulawesi, the Moluccas and Lesser Sundas, Indonesia and in New Caledonia.


The Scarlet Honeyeater lives in open forests and woodlands with a sparse understorey, especially round wetlands, and sometimes in rainforests. It can be seen in urban areas in flowering plants of streets, parks and gardens.

Seasonal movements: 

Resident in the north of its range, seasonally migratory in south, with movements associated with flowering of food plants. It is considered nomadic around Sydney, following autumn- and winter-flowering plants.

What does it do?

The Scarlet Honeyeater feeds mainly on nectar and sometimes on fruit and insects. It tends to feed in the upper levels of the canopy, foraging in flowers and foliage, usually singly, in pairs or small flocks. Often evicted by larger, more aggressive honeyeaters such as friarbirds.


The Scarlet Honeyeater breeds in pairs, with the more conspicuous male calling and displaying to the quieter females. The small cup nest is suspended from a horizontal branch or in a fork, and is made from fine bark and grass bound with spider web and lined with fine plant materials. The female incubates the eggs alone, but both sexes feed the young. Up to three broods may be produced per season.

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