Bird Photography Challenge #44: Singing Honeyeater

Even after two years of serious bird photography, we can still be surprised and delighted to come across a new sighting, even if it is apparently quite common.  We had never really taken notice of this most widespread species of honeyeaters, let alone taken photos of them! The Singing Honeyeater (Lichenostomus virescens) is a lovely find and is the star of our #44 Bird Photography Challenge.

What does it look like?

9G5A8795A small bird about 18 to 24 cm long, the Singing Honeyeater has a grey upper body, and distinctive face markings: a black streak through the eye going from the bill to the neck, edged with a yellow band below the eye, fading to white.  The throat and chest are white streaked in brown.  The bill is black and the eye dark brown.  The tail and wings are olive-green with flashes of yellow.

As the name suggests, it is known for its pleasant call and we saw them in noisy groups of five or six birds, chirping away as they foraged.

Did you know?

The male calls a melodious ‘prrip prrip’ to advertise his territory.  But the surprising thing is that the calls vary depending on where the bird lives. Scientists have found that Singing Honeyeaters from mainland Australia did not respond to the songs of Singing Honeyeaters from an island off of Australia’s west coast. Song types, number of syllables and notes per song seem to vary depending on location. Perhaps this is an instance of bird dialect?

How does it behave?

Singing honeyeaters live in families. They will attack larger animals, if they feel threatened by them, or if they are in their territory. They have been known to attack intruders in mobs thus showing they can work cooperatively together.

9G5A8777This little fellow generally forages in the shrubs at a lower level than most other honeyeaters, which is rather convenient for photography.  It is a omnivore which sips on nectar from the flowers, but also feeds on berries from the shrubs, and grubs and insects from the foliage.

Pairs form long term relationships. The nest is an open cup formed from matted grasses lined with hair or wool. The female incubates the eggs and both adults feed the chicks.

Where is it found?

Found in mainland Australia, with the exception of the east coast and Tasmania, this honey eater is quite widespread in open shrub lands, low woodlands and also in salt-pruned coastal scrub.  A small group of them were foraging along the salt marshes of Swan Bay, near Queenscliff, where all photos were taken with a Canon 7dII and 100-400mm lens, hand held.

Click on any image in the gallery to display in full screen.

14 thoughts on “Bird Photography Challenge #44: Singing Honeyeater

  1. I recon these are the little fellas that “own” lots of back yards in Alice Springs, ours included. They display the same territorial behaviour, harassing any larger bird that comes too close, making a huge racket. Fearless as well – its not uncommon to see them aggressively dive-bombing Kite Hawks in full flight: really spectacular to watch. They are not tame as such, but are comfortable nesting close to humans, using our presence as a shield against predators. We had generations of them born a couple of metres from our back door, in a climbing vine. It was beautiful but sometimes difficult to watch the chicks attempt first flight. Difficult, because they sometimes didn’t survive, and we would find the little thing on the ground, with the parents trying to coax it back to life. Great photos Chris, and really good to put a name to them at last.

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