Strong-billed honeyeater

The strong-billed honeyeater (Melithreptus validirostris) is a species of bird in the family Meliphagidae. It is one of two species of the genus Melithreptus endemic to Tasmania. Its natural habitat is temperate forests.

Strong-billed honeyeater
Melithreptus validirostris - Myrtle forest.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Meliphagidae
Genus: Melithreptus
M. validirostris
Binomial name
Melithreptus validirostris
(Gould, 1837)

Eidopsarus bicinctus Swainson


The strong-billed honeyeater was first described by ornithologist John Gould in 1837.[2] Its specific name is derived from the Latin words validus "strong", and rostrum "bill".[3] It is a member of the genus Melithreptus with several species, of similar size and (apart from the brown-headed honeyeater) black-headed appearance, in the honeyeater family Meliphagidae. Molecular markers show the strong-billed honeyeater separated from the common ancestor of the brown-headed and black-chinned honeyeaters between 6.7 and 3.4 million years ago.[4]

The next closest relative outside the genus is the much larger but similarly marked blue-faced honeyeater.[5] More recently, DNA analysis has shown honeyeaters to be related to the Pardalotidae (pardalotes), Acanthizidae (Australian warblers, scrubwrens, thornbills, etc.), and the Maluridae (Australian fairy-wrens) in a large Meliphagoidea superfamily.[6]


A mid-sized honeyeater at 16.5–17.5 cm (6.5–7 in) in length, it is olive brown above and pale grey brown below, with a black head, nape and throat white patch over the eye and a white crescent-shaped patch on the nape.[7] Juveniles have brownish crowns, lemon tinged nape and an orange base of bill.[8] Its call is a loud cheep cheep, or a churring.[7]


The strong-billed honeyeater is found in mature forest with large trees such as Eucalyptus regnans and E. delegatensis. Its diet is principally insects and various other invertebrates, which it hunts on tree trunks, supplemented by nectar and fallen fruit.[8] Although both species are widespread in Tasmania, the Strong-billed rarely overlaps in site and foraging with the black-headed honeyeater.[9]


Strong-billed honeyeaters may nest from September to January, breeding once or twice during this time. The nest is a thick-walled bowl of grasses and bits of bark in the fork of a tall tree, usually a eucalypt. Two or three eggs are laid, 22 x 17 mm and shiny buff-pink sparsely spotted with red-brown.[10]


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Melithreptus validirostris". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. ^ Gould, John (1837). A Synopsis of the Birds of Australia, and Adjacent Islands. London.
  3. ^ Simpson DP (1979). Cassell's Latin Dictionary (5th ed.). London: Cassell Ltd. pp. 525, 629. ISBN 0-304-52257-0.
  4. ^ Toon A, Hughes JM, Joseph L (2010). "Multilocus analysis of honeyeaters (Aves: Meliphagidae) highlights spatio-temporal heterogeneity in the influence of biogeographic barriers in the Australian monsoonal zone". Molecular Ecology. 19 (14): 2980–94. doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2010.04730.x. PMID 20609078.
  5. ^ Driskell, A.C., Christidis, L (2004) Phylogeny and evolution of the Australo-Papuan honeyeaters (Passeriformes, Meliphagidae) Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 31 943–960
  6. ^ Barker, F.K., Cibois, A., Schikler, P., Feinstein, J., and Cracraft, J (2004) Phylogeny and diversification of the largest avian radiation. Proceedings Natl. Acad. Sci., USA 101 11040-11045
  7. ^ a b Watts, Dave (2006) [1999]. Field Guide to Tasmanian Birds (2nd ed.). Frenchs Forest, NSW: New Holland Press. p. 145. ISBN 1-876334-60-6.
  8. ^ a b "Strong-billed Honeyeater". Birds in Backyards. Birds Australia. 17 May 2006. Retrieved 28 June 2010.
  9. ^ Slater, Peter J. (1994). "Niche Overlap Between Three Sympatric Short-billed Honeyeaters in Tasmania". Emu. 94 (3): 186–192. doi:10.1071/MU9940186.
  10. ^ Beruldsen, Gordon (2003). Australian Birds: Their Nests and Eggs. Kenmore Hills, Qld: self. pp. 314–315. ISBN 0-646-42798-9.

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