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The white-naped honeyeater (Melithreptus lunatus) is a passerine bird of the honeyeater family Meliphagidae native to eastern Australia. Birds from southwestern Australia have been shown to be a distinct species, Gilbert's honeyeater, and the eastern birds more closely related to the black-headed honeyeater of Tasmania. One of several similar species of black-headed honeyeaters in the genus Melithreptus, it dwells in dry sclerophyll eucalypt woodland. Its diet consists of nectar from various flowers and insects.

White-naped honeyeater
Melithreptus lunatus - Glen Davis.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Meliphagidae
Genus: Melithreptus
M. lunatus
Binomial name
Melithreptus lunatus
(Vieillot, 1802)


The white-naped honeyeater was originally described as Certhia lunata by French ornithologist Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot in 1802.[2] The specific name is derived from the Latin luna, meaning "moon"; this refers to its crescent-shaped white marking on its nape. 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. The next closest relative outside the genus is the much larger but similarly marked blue-faced honeyeater.[3] 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.[4]

Gilbert's honeyeater, found in southwest Western Australia, was initially described as a separate species by John Gould in 1844,[5] before being reclassified as a subspecies of the white-naped for many years. However, a molecular study published in 2010 showed that it had diverged before the split of populations in eastern Australia into the white-naped and black-headed honeyeaters.[6]


A mid-sized honeyeater at 13–15 cm (5–6 in) in length, it is olive green above and white below, with a black head, nape and throat and a red patch over the eye and a white crescent-shaped patch on the nape, thinner than other species. Juveniles have brownish crowns and an orange base of bill. Its call is a mjerp mjerp.[7]


It is found in forest. Its diet is principally nectar from a variety of flowers supplemented by insects and various other invertebrates.


SE Queensland, Australia

White-naped honeyeaters may nest from July to December, 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, 18 x 14 mm and shiny buff-pink sparsely spotted with red-brown.[8]


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Melithreptus lunatus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. ^ Vieillot, L.P. (1802). Oiseaux dorés au a reflets metalliques. (published in 32 parts). Paris Vol. 2 [95].
  3. ^ Driskell, A.C.; Christidis, L (2004). "Phylogeny and evolution of the Australo-Papuan honeyeaters (Passeriformes, Meliphagidae)". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 31 (3): 943–960. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2003.10.017. PMID 15120392.
  4. ^ Barker, F.K.; Cibois, A.; Schikler, P.; Feinstein, J.; Cracraft, J (2004). "Phylogeny and diversification of the largest avian radiation". Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 101 (30): 11040–11045. doi:10.1073/pnas.0401892101. PMC 503738. PMID 15263073.
  5. ^ Gould, J. (1848). The Birds of Australia. 104 pls. London: J. Gould Vol. 4 [pl. 73].
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Simpson K, Day N, Trusler P (1993). Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. Ringwood, Victoria: Viking O'Neil. p. 392. ISBN 0-670-90478-3.
  8. ^ Beruldsen, G (2003). Australian Birds: Their Nests and Eggs. Kenmore Hills, Qld: self. pp. 314–316. ISBN 0-646-42798-9.