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.
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. 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.
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
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. Birds often hang upside down from branches while foraging.
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