White-gaped Honeyeater

brown bird with beak open
White-gaped Honeyeater showing the origin of its name

I mentioned the White-gaped Honeyeater, Lichenostomus unicolor, in my previous post and then realised that I had never uploaded a photo of it – which is a bit odd, since the species is the most common resident, year round, of my garden. On the other hand, they do flit around inside the trees and shrubs in a way which makes a good photo quite difficult.

They are basically dull brown with olive green wing flashes, but that description fits a dozen other species equally well so they are named for the distinctive whitish marking at the angle of the beak; it shows up as a pac-man when the beak is open, as in my photo above, and as a spot with the beak closed.

brown bird
White-gaped Honeyeater in poplar gum

Their range extends all the way across the Top End to Broome but only a little South of Townsville (to the Burdekin) according to Slater’s Field Guide, which introduces the extended family thus:

Honeyeaters are nectar-feeding birds with long brush-tipped tongues; bills are curved, often long, reflecting to some extent the sorts of flowers they frequent. … As well as nectar they feed extensively on insects and other invertebrates and some eat fruit as well.

We would expect, then, that they have long slender tongues capable of reaching deep into  flowers for their nectar and (in what I admit is another reason for posting about them just now) I can now show that this is true. A few days ago I fluked a photo of a White-gaped Honeyeater with its tongue out:

brown bird with tongue out
White-gaped Honeyeater showing its tongue

My Friendly Local Expert confirmed that we were indeed seeing its tongue, not a large spiny insect on its way down the bird’s throat, and suggested that the white fluff may be a fragment of blossom.

Wildlife in a South Hobart garden

View of Hobart over the trees
Looking over Hobart

Just after Easter I stayed for a week in a house which is technically in South Hobart but to me feels more like halfway up Mount Wellington. The view from its front deck (above) is wonderful but I was also interested in comparing its wildlife with what we have in Townsville. It could only be a snapshot, of course, with not much idea of seasonal variation, but still …


black and white honeyeater on red flowers
New Holland Honeyeaters, Phylidonyris novaehollandiae, on bottlebrush

The birds were mostly different and most of the common ones were smaller than ours but numbers were comparable. The commonest residents were the wrens, robins, New Holland honeyeaters and willie-wagtails, in about that order. A family of Kookaburras was around for the first few days of my stay, then disappeared; I saw Silvereyes in the shrubs a few times; and I saw one currawong land in the garden.

small brown wren
Superb Fairy-wren, Malurus cyaneus. This is a female or a non-breeding male; males put on beautiful blue plumage for the breeding season.

The house was near the flight path from the coast to a pair of dams in the nearby Waterworks reserve so there was a constant stream of gulls (Pacific and silver) and other waterbirds in the middle distance. Crows followed the same path and frequently perched in trees not too far from the house.

Insects and other invertebrates

I looked quite hard for insects and spiders. I had to, to find any, since both numbers and variety were a long way below what we have here. Only one species of butterfly in a week? Yes, and only a couple of sightings. One species of spider, the Black House Spider, was doing well in the exterior timber-work of the house but I only found one individual spider of any other species – this little green one, so far unidentified.

My respect for the patience of Tony (aka servitude) and Kristi (aka zosterops) skyrocketed: they somehow come up with a steady stream of Tasmanian bugs for the Field Guide to Australian Insects group. My own meagre harvest is here. My prize discovery was the first scorpion I have seen for some years – they are known to live in the tropics but I have never seen one around my house.

Scorpion 9192


The commonest large mammals were, as usual, people. But wallabies could be seen around dusk, and rabbits visited the lawn when it was quiet enough – I surprised one browsing early one morning. It was an easter bunny but not, of course, the easter bunny.