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Australian Honeyeaters: Meliphagidae

Behavior And Reproduction

They are active birds, sometimes noisy and aggressive. Australian honeyeaters are seldom found alone, but often seen in family groups or loose flocks. Species that migrate usually occur in large flocks. Some species that inhabit arid and semi-arid habitats are nomadic as they regularly move to different locations. When feeding on large nectar supplies, many birds will come together in noisy groups that chase each other. Species of larger sizes will often dominate smaller birds, taking over better feeding spots. They are often seen probing among flowers for nectar. During breeding and molting (the phase after breeding), the birds are often quiet and difficult to find due to little activity.

Their songs and calls range from beautiful to harsh. Species of smaller sizes have twittering, musical songs, and whistling calls. Medium-sized birds have many different songs and calls. Larger birds emit harsh cackling and coughing calls.

Most Australian honeyeaters are monogamous (muh-NAH-guh-mus; having one mate), although polygamy (puh-LIH-guh-mee; having more than one mate) and a mixed mating system also occurs. It is thought that about one-third of the species are cooperative breeders, their roles ranging from occasional helpers to members of complicated colonies. Most of the birds have long breeding seasons that last for six or more months. Breeding occurs most frequently in late winter to late spring (August to October).

Nests are built from low bushes nearly on the ground to the tops of tall trees. Most nests are located in forks of trees or suspended from foliage. The woven nests are made of spider webs, animal hair, plant down, wool, artificial materials, feathers, and human hair. Some species build hollow nests.

Females lay eggs that range in color from white to pale pink or buff, with purple, red, brown, or black spots and blotches. The average number of eggs is two, but some species lay only one egg. Other species lay up to three or four eggs. The female does most of the incubation (process of sitting on and warming the eggs), which usually lasts from twelve to seventeen days. Both parents feed the young, which usually consists of insects but can be nectar in some species. The fledgling period (the time it takes for a bird to grow feathers necessary to fly) ranges from eleven to twenty days, but can be as long as thirty-two days in the hollow-nesting species.

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