There is a bush block on Hervey’s Range which I visit regularly and often write about because its wildlife, large and small, continues to surprise me. (This link will take you to posts about previous visits.)
Last weekend’s special treat was a bottlebrush tree in full bloom, surrounded by enough honeyeaters to fill an aviary; all I had to do was stand nearby and point the camera at them – and count species afterwards. I ended up with five identified species of honeyeater, one unidentified greyish bird of similar size which may have been a Whistler and one larger but very timid one which may have been a Friarbird.
Because I was photographing from an almost constant distance, I have been able to scale my photographs to show the birds at approximately their relative sizes. I have arranged them here from largest to smallest. In order:
- Lewin’s Honeyeater, 19-21cm.
- Yellow, 15-18cm.
- Brown, 12-16cm – there’s a better photo here.
- Dusky, 12-14cm.
- Scarlet, 10-11cm – i.e. almost exactly half the size of the Lewin’s.
As Slaters’ Field Guide says, the fact that Honeyeaters range from very large (Wattlebirds, 40 cm or more, and Friarbirds) to tiny allows them to feed on, and pollinate, all sizes of nectar-producing flowers. They certainly did their best with this bottlebrush!
The Scarlet Honeyeater is the only one of these species in which the sexes are noticeably different: the male is resplendent in red, black and grey while the female is a dull brown with just a little flush of red around the face. She could be mistaken for a Dusky Honeyeater, while he could be mistaken for a Mistletoebird (not my photo) or finch.
Myzomela, by the way, is a genus within the honeyeater family Meliphagidae. Some bird people like to use the genus name as the common name for some species (e.g. ‘Dusky Myzomela’), while others prefer to call them all ‘Honeyeaters’.