Australian Bush Birds
White-naped Honeyeater  -  Melithreptus lunatus
White-naped Honeyeater
map map White-naped Honeyeater - Melithreptus lunatus - has a black head from the crown to the sides of the cheek extending just under the chin. A white band extends around the back of the head (the nape) ending just short of the eye on both sides. Back, shoulders and rump are olive-green; wings and tail are olive green tending to deep grey-brown. Underparts are white. Eye is brown with bare skin around the top of the eye. In eastern birds this skin is scarlet, in western birds it is chalky-white. Bill is black, mouth rich orange. Feet buff or flesh brown. Male and female similar. 14 to 15 centimetres.

Immature birds are coloured as for adults but the head is russet-brown, the nape band is buff, under parts are cream. Eye skin is same colour as the adult but duller; bill is orange-buff at the base.

Lives in wet and dry forests along the Great Dividing Range and its slopes north to the Atherton Tableland and south through Victoria to Mt Lofty in South Australia. A separate western population is found in south west Western Australia. Not found in Tasmania where the Black-headed Honeyeater (without a nape stripe) is found.

The White-naped Honeyeater feeds in pairs and small groups in the outer branches and foliage of tall eucalyptus forests spending three-quarters of their feeding time searching through leaves, often hanging upside down among them. Their main food is manna and honeydew, the sugary secretions of leaf insects, making up to 60% of their intake; the remainder is insects, larvae and spiders as well as nectar from blossoming eucalyptus.

Groups are fairly sedentary except for those living in the south east who migrate annually. In March and April (autumn) they band together in groups of 30 to 50 and travel west or north in thousands; sometimes mixing with migrating Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, sometimes alone. Their destination is unknown, but is thought to be south east Queensland and the South Australian gulf region. They return in spring (late August to September) in the same large numbers, along different routes, returning to the locality they left earlier in the year.

Breeds from July to January. The nest is a delicate, deep cup of fine grass, strips of bark and plant material, closely bound with cobwebs; lined with down; hung in hanging foliage, usually in eucalyptus, 5 to 20 metres above the ground.

White-naped Honeyeater - page 2
Two to three eggs are laid; pink to pale buff, finely spotted all over with red-brown and grey mainly at the large end; oval, about 18 by 14 millimetres. Incubation takes about 14 days, young fledge in about 14 days.

Cuckoos often lay an egg in a White-naped Honeyeater nest.

 ¶  Genus Melithreptus is in the large Family Meliphagidae containing honeyeaters, spinebills and chats.

 ¶  Two sub-species;
  lunatus found in the east.
  chloropsis found in the west.