Black-headed honeyeater

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Black-headed honeyeater
Melithreptus affinis Bruny.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Meliphagidae
Genus: Melithreptus
Species: M. affinis
Binomial name
Melithreptus affinis
(Lesson, 1839)

The black-headed honeyeater (Melithreptus affinis) is a species of bird in the family Meliphagidae. It is one of two members of the genus Melithreptus endemic to Tasmania. Its natural habitats are temperate forests and Mediterranean-type shrubby vegetation. Despite its name, the black-headed honeyeater eats predominantly insects.


The black-headed honeyeater was described in 1839 as Eidopsarus affinis. John Gould described it as Melithreptus melanocephalus in 1844, likely unaware of its earlier name.[2]

Molecular studies show the black-headed honeyeater is most closely related to the white-naped honeyeater, and that their next closest relative is Gilbert's honeyeater. All are members 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.[3] More recently, DNA analysis has shown honeyeaters to be related to the Pardalotidae (pardalotes), Acanthizidae (Australian warblers, scrubwrens, thornbills, etc.), and the Maluridae (Australian fairywrens) in a large Meliphagoidea superfamily.[4]


A mid-sized honeyeater, it is olive green above and white below, with a wholly black head that lacks the white nape of its relatives. It has a blue-white patch of bare skin around the eye. Its beak is small.

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The black-headed honeyeater is endemic to Tasmania, where it is found in wet and dry sclerophyll forests, as well as scrub and heathland, and subalpine habitats to an altitude of 1200 m (4000 ft).


Insects form the bulk of the diet, and the black-headed honeyeater specialises in foraging among the foliage of trees, as opposed to probing the trunk for prey which is practised by its relative the strong-billed honeyeater, and the two species rarely overlap.[5] Birds often hang upside down from branches while foraging.


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Melithreptus affinis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Campbell, AG (1938). "John Gould Amongst Tasmanian Birds". Emu. 38 (3): 138–41. doi:10.1071/MU938138. 
  3. ^ Driskell, A.C.; Christidis, L (2004). "Phylogeny and evolution of the Australo-Papuan honeyeaters (Passeriformes, Meliphagidae)" (PDF). Molecular Phylogenetics & Evolution. 31 (3): 943–60. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2003.10.017. PMID 15120392. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 May 2012. 
  4. ^ Barker, F.K.; Cibois, A.; Schikler, P.; Feinstein, J.; Cracraft, J (2004). "Phylogeny and diversification of the largest avian radiation". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 101 (30): 11040–5. doi:10.1073/pnas.0401892101. PMC 503738Freely accessible. PMID 15263073. 
  5. ^ Slater, Peter J. (1994). "Niche Overlap Between Three Sympatric Short-billed Honeyeaters in Tasmania". Emu. 94 (3): 186–192. doi:10.1071/MU9940186.