Australian Bush Birds
Lemon-bellied Flycatcher  -  Microeca flavigaster
Lemon-bellied Flycatcher
The Lemon-bellied Flycatcher is not a shy bird and remains in full view near people.
photograph photograph
Lemon-bellied flycatcher with characteristic yellow belly. Right: The grey head, white brow-line and the flesh colouring of the lower mandible are found in all four versions of the Lemon-bellied Flycatcher
map map The Lemon-bellied Flycatcher - Microeca flavigaster - is a small (12 to 14 centimetres) flycatcher in the robin family found across northern Australia from the Kimberley to the Queensland east coast (absent from the Gulf of Carpentaria southern shore). The bird inhabits wetter woodlands, open forests and mangroves of the coast and near coastal regions. Rarely seen in rainforest; found only in mangroves in the Kimberley.

There are four Australian variants found respectively in the Kimberley, the Top End, Cape York/north Queensland and the Queensland central east coast. Each variant has its own colour scheme.

Male and female are similar in appearance. Upper parts are pale yellow-brown, slightly greyer over the head in the Top End and eastern Queensland. Wings and tail are browner, outer feathers tinged yellow-orange and tail feathers narrowly tipped off-white. Under parts are lemon-yellow. Throat is off-white; brow-line is off-white, tinged yellow on Cape York. Upper mandible is dusky, lower is grey-brown with flesh-coloured base. Feet are dusky.

Birds in the Kimberley are more brown in their upper body and head colouring with an olive wash on the back. Kimberley variety has a white belly (not yellow) and was formerly treated as a separate species known as the Brown-tailed or Kimberley Flycatcher but intergrading with the Top End yellow-bellied variety has been confirmed in mangroves at Wyndham.

Lemon-bellied Flycatcher - page 2
Juvenile birds are olive-brown above with coarsely spotted cream giving a streaked appearance. White below, mottled brown on throat and breast. Bill and feet are brown.

Hunts and feeds alone or in loose pairs catching insects among foliage or on the wing from a bare horizontal perch often returning to the perch to eat the catch. Does not wave the tail at rest (unlike the Jackie Winter). Frequently hovers on its fluttering flight.

The Kimberley version also forages regularly on the ground (it lives in dense mangroves subject to regular tidal flooding). It pounces from a perch to snatch small prey - small crabs or insects - sometimes while fluttering low over the mud.

Lemon-bellied Flycatchers are common, sedentary birds. Established pairs rarely move from their territory during the year.

Breeding takes place from August to January, rarely later. The nest is a very small cup of fibre and bark strips bound with cobwebs and covered with patches of bark and dried leaves. Nest is lined with strips of fibre and grass and secured to a small, bare horizontal branch, usually at a fork between 1.5 and 10 metres above the ground, often over open water. A single egg is laid, off-white tinged blue-grey, spotted and blotched all over with chestnut to olive-brown and underlying lavender, often forming irregular zone at the large end. Long oval shape, about 19 by 14 millimetres. Probably incubated by both parents.

  flavigaster - in the Top End and south-west Gulf of Carpentaria.
  flavissima - Cape York Peninsula.
  laetissima - Queensland central east coast.
  tormenti - Kimberley, previously known as the Kimberley Flycatcher.

   Field Guide to Australian Birds - Morecombe, pages 280-281.
   Field Guide to the Birds of Australia - Simpson & Day, pages 226-227.
   Readers Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds - page 396.