White-naped Honeyeater

White-naped Honeyeater
White-naped Honeyeater
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Meliphagidae
Genus: Melithreptus
Species: M. lunatus
Binomial name
Melithreptus lunatus
(Vieillot, 1802)

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, the Western White-naped 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.



The White-naped Honeyeater was originally described as Certhia lunata by French ornithologist Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot in 1802.[1] 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.[2] 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.[3]

The Western White-naped Honeyeater from southwest Western Australia, this was initially described as a separate species by John Gould in 1844,[4] 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.[5]


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.[6]


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.[7]


  1. ^ Vieillot, L.P. (1802). Oiseaux dorés au a reflets metalliques. (published in 32 parts). Paris Vol. 2 [95].
  2. ^ 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. 
  3. ^ Barker, F.K.; Cibois, A.; Schikler, P.; Feinstein, J.; Cracraft, J (2004). "Phylogeny and diversification of the largest avian radiation". Proceedings Natl. Acad. Sci., USA 101 (30): 11040–11045. doi:10.1073/pnas.0401892101. PMC 503738. PMID 15263073. http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pmcentrez&artid=503738. 
  4. ^ Gould, J. (1848). The Birds of Australia. 104 pls. London: J. Gould Vol. 4 [pl. 73].
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ Beruldsen, G (2003). Australian Birds: Their Nests and Eggs. Kenmore Hills, Qld: self. pp. 314–316. ISBN 0-646-42798-9. 
  • BirdLife International (2004). Melithreptus lunatus. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 12 May 2006. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern

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