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 Swan River 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. 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. 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.
The Swan River honeyeater from southwest Western Australia, this was initially described as a separate species by John Gould in 1844, 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.
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.
It is found in forest. Its diet is principally nectar from a variety of flowers supplemented by insects and various other invertebrates.
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.
- BirdLife International (2012). "Melithreptus lunatus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
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- 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.
- 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.
- Gould, J. (1848). The Birds of Australia. 104 pls. London: J. Gould Vol. 4 [pl. 73].
- 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.
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- Beruldsen, G (2003). Australian Birds: Their Nests and Eggs. Kenmore Hills, Qld: self. pp. 314–316. ISBN 0-646-42798-9.