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Australian Honeyeaters: Meliphagidae

Physical Characteristics

Australian honeyeaters differ with respect to their outward appearance. They are mostly small birds with some tiny species and others as large as jays. They are longish birds with long, pointed wings, strong legs and feet, sharp claws, and rather long, down-curved and sharply-pointed bills (which vary from this basic shape, based on diet differences). They are usually dull colored, mostly greenish, olive, or brown. The smaller species often have yellow on their under parts. Some of the smaller species are black and white, while some of the larger species are black, gray, dark green, or streaked brown. Most Australian honeyeaters have colored bare skin around the eyes; a somewhat swollen mouth area; fancy wattles (skin that hangs from the throat); and a head that is bald. Such characteristics often change in color as they get older or seasonally as they breed.

In most species, the bill and legs are easily noticed due to their bright color. The bill varies in shape and size, sometimes being short and straight, slightly decurved, or quite long and markedly decurved. All birds have a unique tongue structure, being deeply notched and finely edged with bristles at the tip, forming four parallel brushes. Some of the juveniles have plumage (feathers) that differs greatly from adults, but most differences are small. Adults are 3 to 20 inches (7 to 50 centimeters) long and weigh between 0.25 and 7.0 ounces (7 and 200 grams).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceBirdsAustralian Honeyeaters: Meliphagidae - Physical Characteristics, Habitat, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status, Bishop's Oo (moho Bishopi): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, AUSTRALIAN HONEYEATERS AND PEOPLE