Little friarbird

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Little friarbird
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Meliphagidae
Genus: Philemon
P. citreogularis
Binomial name
Philemon citreogularis
(Gould, 1837)

The little friarbird (Philemon citreogularis), also known as the little leatherhead or yellow throated friarbird, is the smallest of the friarbirds within the Philemon genus.[2] It is found Throughout northern and eastern Australia as well as southern Papua New Guinea.[2] It lives a very prominent life whereby it can easily be seen chasing other honeyeaters and is very vocal.[3] However, the little friarbird is usually spotted high up in trees as it rarely is seen on the ground.[3]


The little friarbird ranges from 25–30 cm in length.[4] The average size tends to be 27 cm with an average weight of 67g.[5] Although males and females tend to be very similar in appearance, males are larger.[3]

The little friarbird can be easily distinguished from other friarbirds by the absence of a casque (a prominent ridge or bump present on the beak).[6] Another key recognisable feature is the bare blue skin present under the eye which widens over the cheek (The bare blue skin can be grey to black in tone).[5][7][8] Dark feathers are present both above and below the blue skin.[8] The top of the head and body are a dark grey-brown with a dull white fringe present on the nape which flows around to a wide patch on the side of the neck.[6] Fine silky white feathers are present under the chin with silvery white streaks flowing down the breast merging to pale grey for the under body of the little friarbird.[4][6]

The little friarbird also has a black curved bill, dark brown eyes with bluish black legs.[6] Its flight characteristics involve wing-beats which are shallow and quivering in nature.[2] The tail is clearly square cut when spread with slight pale tips present on the tail feathers.[2]


Juvenile little friarbirds tend to have a paler appearance with a lighter facial skin.[8] The chin throat and in some cases, upper breast tends to appear as a washed yellow with yellow spots on side of breast.[2][8] The terming ‘citregularis’ is a descriptive term frequently used to describe young birds which have a yellow fore neck.[6] The tail feathers also tend to appear as a shallower cut unlike the adult little friarbirds.[6]


The little friarbird has a very distinct voice consisting of a repeated liquid mellow ‘gee-wit’ or chewip’.[2] When breeding, the song is extended and includes chattering scoldings.[2]


The little friarbird has been observed feeding alone, in pairs and small flocks.[5] However, they are rarely seen feeding on the ground as they prefer to remain in the trees and feed with other honeyeaters in mixed groups.[5] They feed on nectar, blossoms, fruit, invertebrates and sometimes flowers and seeds.[3][5][7]


The little friarbird is present most predominantly in northern Australia with seasonal movements to south-east Australia.[5] They have been witnessed as far West as Port headland in Western Australia through the Kimberleys into the northern portion of the Northern Territory.[2] They have been sighted throughout most of Queensland going as far inland as Mount Isa and Opalton.[2] They also spread throughout the south East of Australia inhabiting the states of New South Wales, Victoria, Australian Capital Territory and South Australia.[2]

The little Friarbird have been sighted along the Murray River and throughout the Riverina within New South Wales and predominant water bodies in Victoria such as Hattah lakes.[2] They have also been sighted as far as Morgan in South Australia.[2] They are also present in South Papua New Guinea and a variety of islands adjacent to Australia.[2][7]


The little friarbird is found most predominantly around water bodies.[2] They can be seen in swamp woodlands, mangroves, shrub communities, open forests and woodlands dominated by Eucalyptus tree species.[5] They also inhabit orchards, vineyards and gardens during a good flowering season.[2] They may also inhabit arid zones, however only where water bodies extend well into the area.[5]


The little friarbird form monogamous pairs to breed.[3] Breeding records vary with the earliest being witnessed in July through to the latest being February.[6][7] Pairs share the role of building the nest which is a deep open cup which is flimsy and able to be seen through (eggs are visible).[4][5][6] The nest comprises a large variety of materials including bark fiber, fine grass, spiders’ web, rootlets and hair.[2][6] The nest is usually built over a water body low in tree branches, often suspended in twigs 2–10 meters high and built within dropped foliage.[2] Up to 2 broods can be raised within a single breeding season with the female being the sole incubator of the eggs.[4] A single nesting period tends to take 14 days within which 13 days of incubation occurs.[5] During the breeding season the little friarbird is often parasitized by the common koel, Eudynamys scolopacea, a common cuckoo species.[3][5]


The nest would usually consist of 2–3 eggs (sometimes 4) which tend to be an oval to tapered oval shape averaging 28mm by 20mm in size.[2][4][7] The eggs appear chestnut in colour and can be a whitish pink to salmon red, or spotted purplish red to purple.[2]



  1. ^ BirdLife International (2013). "Philemon citreogularis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2013. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Pizzey, Graham (1991). A field guide to the birds of Australia. Sydney: Harper Collins. pp. 320–321. ISBN 0 00 219205 5.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Little Friarbird". Birdlife Australia. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e Jones, Raymond M. "Little Friarbird - Australian Bush Birds". Retrieved 2017-06-09.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Little Friarbird | BIRDS in BACKYARDS". Retrieved 2017-06-09.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Macdonald, J (1973). Birds of Australia. Sydney: A. H. & A. W. Reed Pty Ltd. p. 426. ISBN 0 589 07117 3.
  7. ^ a b c d e Pizzey, Graham (2007). The field guide to the birds of Australia. Sydney: Harper Collins. p. 380. ISBN 9780207199356.
  8. ^ a b c d Simpson, K. & Day, N. (1996). Field guide to the birds of Australia. Melbourne: Penguin books Australia. pp. 190–191. ISBN 0 670 86305 X.